Freelancer Julia Gardiner writes: When we first started planning our trip, Utah was a state I casually mentioned wanting to see — mostly out of a morbid curiosity about strict Western religions and some photos I’d seen of Salt Lake City. So we added it to the itinerary and no matter which way we flipped the direction of our trip, Halloween fell during our stay in SLC.
In the first week or so on the road, we drank hard and fast with as many Americans as we could find, from a man who rigged trapeze artists in Las Vegas circuses to classical music students, to bartenders, to musicians. Without fail, we mentioned we were spending Halloween in SLC, which was usually met with raised eyebrows, and led to a lot of nervous laughter on our part.
Yet after three days of national parks, we held a hurried conference over some Bud in a hotel room one night and decided, actually, Halloween in Utah was starting to sound a more and more curious option, and after a few calls to hotels, we cancelled our night in Capitol Reef national park and booked an additional night in SLC. We headed to Utah armed with nothing more than luggage we were truly sick of the sight of and some knowledge gleaned from the source of everything true and correct, Google, about odd liquor licensing and sexual intercourse laws.
Like a lot of places we’ve seen on the trip, there was a surprising amount of public works going on on the freeways leading into SLC and around the CBD itself. Yet unlike our experiences in LA and later in Seattle and Portland, the streets of Salt Lake City were disturbingly quiet at all hours of the day. Ringed by mountains, SLC is picturesque and the cleanliness of the streets and the architecture and lack of people made it feel like a movie set.
Besides a few billboards on the outskirt of town promoting helplines for people in polygamous relationships, there wasn’t much to initially suggest SLC as the heart of a large religious movement, that is, until we wandered a few blocks from our hotel and finally started to see other human beings, all of whom were young, immaculately dressed and had ridiculously straight white teeth. Yes, we had wandered into the vicinity of Salt Lake City’s Mormon temple, the largest in the world.
From the outset, it’s only fair to mention that despite, or perhaps because of, 13 years of Catholic schooling, I don’t have any spiritual or religious inclinations, but my little knowledge of Mormonism, mostly gleaned from HBO, made me curious, so Kelly and I headed into the temple grounds and spent time in the information centres, learning about the temple and a basic history of Mormonism, all the while being circled by women probably a few years younger than us, all eager to ensure we were finding everything we needed.
Later two of the women, missionaries from Samoa and Singapore, took us into the Tabernacle and demonstrated the acoustics by having us sit obediently in the pews while they tore paper and dropped pins on the lectern at the front, a fair distance from where we sat, politely grinning and nodding. To their credit, four pins do sound remarkably loud under a domed roof.
Later than night, and unconverted to Mormonism, I eagerly bundled Kelly into our Dodge and we headed for the suburbs near the city’s capitol building, where we were assured I would be able to sate my desire to see trick or treaters in action. Instead we got ridiculously lost and despite our best efforts, we managed to only see three trick or treaters, two of whom might have actually been child-sized adults I mistook for trick or treaters and almost accidentally ran over.
It was with a heavy heart that I had to return to the hotel and admit that I couldn’t really tick doing a proper Halloween in America off my bucket list, despite almost giving myself diabetes by ingesting what was surely an illegal amount of candy corn. Regardless, Salt Lake City was gorgeous, and we all left agreeing that more time in the city would have uncovered some interesting cultural nooks, if only we could have discovered where the conspicuously absent local were.
You cant find more of Julia’s writings at her blog Doom and Gloom.