On his first trip to the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., Tom Bennett visited Maxwell Park.
It’s like any municipal park, with a playground, a baseball diamond and a picnic area — except that Maxwell Park is tucked between red rock peaks in a canyon on the northeast tip of Hildale.
“And I was really hooked on putting on a concert there,” Bennett said.
The concert is called the Colorado City Music Festival, and it’s happening for the third year on Saturday, April 27. Admission is free for people under 18. Adult tickets start at $10.
The festival features rock, blues and country acts. The two previous incarnations have each drawn about 1,000 people, Bennett said.
He’s hoping for a bigger attendance this time. The Salt Lake City rock band Royal Bliss is the headliner. And the 2019 version will have the festival’s first beer garden.
The towns are collectively known as Short Creek, and they’re known as the home of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Bennett said this is the first year members of the church will participate in the festival. FLDS members will sell homemade baked goods and crafts, he said.
Short Creek has gradually become more secular, and Bennett wants to be a part of that. He’s a touring musician from Villa Rica, Ga., and now lives in St. George, Utah. He visited Short Creek a few years ago after having read about the community for years.
As he met people who had left the FLDS, he discovered they longed for cultural activities. The towns also are trying to build a tourism economy. Short Creek is positioned between Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon and offers outdoor activities synonymous with the American West.
“It’s one of the prettiest areas of southern Utah,” Bennett said, “and I think they want to be known for what they are now.”
The community is pitching in to support the concert. Bennett said a local man rents the festival its stage. Hildale’s mayor and city staff have helped with permitting and other logistical issues.
Last year’s festival ran late. The ambulance crew who stood by in case of an emergency turned on the vehicle’s flood lights so the final act could finish its performance.
Bennett hopes the festival attracts people who used to stay away from Short Creek out of concern about the FLDS faithful there. “I got a comment from one lady who said, ‘Well, I didn’t even know you could come here,’” he said.
COLORADO CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL
The festival is now in its third year.
When • 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 27
Where • Maxwell Park in Hildale
Who • The headliner is Royal Bliss; supporting acts include Tom Bennett and the Living Proof, Cleo, NVM, Lisa MacFarlane, Dick Earl’s Electric Witness and Marji Mozart.
Cost • $10 for adults; free for everyone under age 18