These are The Salt Lake Tribune’s ‘most Utah’ stories of 2020

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Catherine Eslinger at a rally and chocolate milk toast to Sen. Mitt Romney at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

Well, here we are: The end of this most unusual, painful and newsy year.

It’s a time for reflection, so we wanted to look back at those only-in-Utah stories — the pieces that went viral or that speak to the essence of this state. Good, bad, hilarious, and tragic: Let’s look back at some of the “most Utah” stories of 2020.

(Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Health) State health officials are distributing Utah-themed condoms statewide as part of an HIV awareness campaign.

Utah governor stops distribution of risqué state-themed condoms, created to raise awareness of HIV — by Erin Alberty

Way back in January, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered state health officials to stop distributing condoms with suggestive Utah-themed packaging because he didn’t approve of the use of sexual innuendo in the taxpayer-funded campaign. The wrappers riffed on various Utah memes, with labels such as “Greatest Sex on Earth,” “SL,UT,” and “This is the Place” over a drawing of a bed. [Read the full story here.]

(Art Lien | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) momentarily breaks Senate rules by entering the chamber with a bottle of chocolate milk during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Romney promptly exited and returned with the milk in a glass.

Sen. Mitt Romney downs BYU chocolate milk as impeachment trial drags on — by Thomas Burr

Romney — who continues to make this annual list because of his eating habits — went viral in January. For background: Senators were only allowed to drink either water or milk during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Romney, being the rebel he is, spiced things up a bit by bringing his own Utah-made chocolate milk to sip on. [Read the full story here.]

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) The Book Cliffs near State Road 45, south of Vernal, on Friday, March 9, 2012.

Uintah County becomes a ‘sanctuary county’ — for guns — by Taylor Stevens

Utah is a big Second Amendment state. One county, in particular, is so fond of the right to bear arms that its commission voted unanimously to become a “sanctuary county” for firearms. That means that Uintah County’s government won’t recognize or enforce some federal or state regulations that restrict a person’s ability to own a gun. Members of Uintah County’s three-member commission said it’s a precautionary measure — in case the tides in red Utah turn blue or a future president or Congress enacts gun control measures they perceive as violating the Constitution. [Read the full story here.]

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bricks that fell from the facade of Red Rooster Records in Magna after a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in March.

Earthquake anxiety? Utah Emergency Management says calm down and take action — by Scott D. Pierce

On top of early pandemic panic, Utahns were forced to deal with another kind of anxiety. The Utah Division of Emergency Management took to social media in March to reassure people rattled by the magnitude 5.7 earthquake — and all the aftershocks. The office offered a series of facts intending to soothe locals, including the almost reassuring fact that “most buildings” and “99.9%” of Utahns would survive a magnitude 7 earthquake — Utah’s “worst case scenario.” [Read the full story here.]

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) In this Sunday, March 22, 2020 photo, hundreds of people gather to welcome missionaries returning home from the Philippines at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Utah health officials issue stern rebuke after hundreds greet LDS missionaries at airport in defiance of coronavirus warnings — by Erin Alberty

If you’ve ever flown into the Salt Lake City International Airport, you’ve likely seen the excited group of people waving flags and “Welcome home!” signs for their returned LDS missionaries. This past March, however, airport officials told families that only two people could greet each missionary that was flying home because of the coronavirus, and they had to wait at their cars. That didn’t happen. Instead, hundreds of people gathered with balloons and signs in the short-term parking garage, heedless of health officials’ pleas to avoid crowds larger than 10. [Read the full story here.]

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A vibrant blue canal of potash, used to extract valuable minerals from rich brines coursing through them extends into the Bonneville Salt Flats, garnering unwanted recreation attention in June of 2020.

Feds warn boaters, swimmers to stay out of potash canals on Bonneville Salt Flats — by Brian Maffly

Utah is known for its world-class outdoor recreation, but officials had to step in when locals and out-of-town visitors flocked to the Bonneville Salt Flats in June. Thrill-seekers were playing in canals and ponds used by Intrepid Potash to extract valuable minerals, prompting warnings from the Bureau of Land Management and various state agencies to keep out — even though the land is largely public. And the canals were objectively beautiful. [Read the full story here.]

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Angry residents react when the Utah County Commission meeting was adjourned before it even started, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in Provo, Utah. The group protesting against face masks being required in schools removed the social distancing tape on the chairs and filled the Utah County Commission room to over flowing, prompting Commissioner Tanner Ainge to call for a vote to adjourn the meeting.

In separate rallies, Utahns protest mask mandate and demand in-person classes — by Courtney Tanner

Way back in July, a group of angry Utahns packed into the Utah County Commission’s small boardroom to express frustration with online schooling and mask mandates. They wore “Trump 2020” hats and carried little American flags, and every time someone said “freedom” or “constitutional rights” the whole room cheered. Almost no one wore a mask; those who did had them pulled under their chins. [Read the full story here.]

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The 2019 Women's March on Utah at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday Jan. 19, 2019.

Utah ranked worst state for women’s equality three years in a row — by Becky Jacobs

In August, Utah was named the worst state for women’s equality — again. It was the third year in a row the state earned the title. To make matters worse, Utah continues to lag far behind the state ranked 49th — Idaho. “It’s not shocking” to see Utah in last place, again, said Susan Madsen, founder and director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University, “but it’s a bit disappointing.” [Read the full story here.]

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tre Martinez helps unload wood from fallen trees that is being donated to the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. The center, along with Utah Navajo Health System in Montezuma Creek are helping Native American elders in Utah prepare for winter by holding a firewood relief drive and collection.

Utahns can donate wood from trees felled by the windstorm to help Navajo elders — by Trent Nelson

A historic wind storm in September caused a lot of destruction, but it also gave Utah the chance to live up to its charitable reputation once again. The Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake announced it would accept wood donations to help those living in the Navajo Nation make it through the winter, and people responded in droves. [Read the full story here.]

(Screengrab from PSA) Utah's major party candidates for governor — Republican Spencer Cox and Democrat Chris Peterson — released three public service announcements on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 to encourage the public to accept the results, regardless of the outcome, in the presidential race.

Utah’s rivals for governor release ads urging people to respect the outcome of the presidential race — by Bryan Schott

In October, Spencer Cox and Chris Peterson, the Republican and Democratic nominees for Utah governor, promised to respect the outcome of the presidential race and make Utah “an example to the nation.” “Win or lose, in Utah we work together,” Peterson said in the ad that became national news. [Read the full story here.]

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new "Utah Women 2020" Mural, featuring more than Utah women from the past and present, on the Dinwoody Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

Artists add 30 women to Salt Lake City mural, after criticism of who was originally included — by Becky Jacobs

A mural intended to honor women in Utah made headlines when people started to accuse the creators of underrepresentation. “This mural has some pretty glaring omissions of Utah Republican women,” former Utah Rep. Mia Love tweeted after its unveiling. Artists went back and added Love, Lt. Gov.-elect Deidre Henderson and more. [Read the full story here.]

(Ross D. Franklin | AP) Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, engages the crowd prior to President Donald Trump arriving for a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz.

Sen. Mike Lee says Donald Trump is like Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni — by Lee Davidson

Americans may have called President Donald Trump just about everything possible this year, good and bad. But standing by his side at an Arizona rally this past October, Sen. Mike Lee called him something new, a name that would sound familiar to many Utahns: “Captain Moroni,” an ancient military commander in the Book of Mormon who inspired soldiers to fight for their freedom. [Read the full story here.]

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Andy Larsen, founder of the Excalmation Point Aid Brigade.

How I sent a tweet that unintentionally raised $50,000 for charity — by Andy Larsen

Utah’s known as one of the most charitable states. Those who live here proved it in November when Tribune reporter Andy Larsen posted a tweet asking for suggestions on where to donate the nearly $166 in change his mom found in his childhood coin jar. So many people responded with offers to add their own donations that, by the next day, he had nearly $50,000 to donate. And thus the Exclamation Point Aid Brigade was born. [Read the full story here.]

(Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Public Safety) In this Nov. 18, 2020, file photo provided by the Utah Department of Public Safety, Utah state workers walk near a metal monolith planted in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah.

It might be gone, but the monolith highlighted Utah’s role as a world-class venue for land art — by Brian Maffly

The mysterious monolith was the gift that kept giving in 2020. In late November, biologists doing a bighorn sheep survey for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spotted the shining structure from a helicopter. They posted photos and hordes of people immediately flocked to the remote alcove in San Juan County to take pictures. Within a few days, however, four men from Moab removed the monolith and presented it to BLM officials. While short-lived, it joins the ranks of other famous works of land art in Utah — like The Spiral Jetty and The Sun Tunnels. [Read the full story here.]

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Paris Hilton leads a march to the Provo Canyon School, during a rally calling for the closure of Provo Canyon School, a residential treatment center in Utah she attended when she was a teen, on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.

Utah faces criticism for its light oversight of ‘troubled teen’ treatment centers — by Jessica Miller

Paris Hilton traveled to Utah this year to raise awareness about a topic unique to the state: its so-called “troubled teen industry.” Child and disability advocates are currently investigating what they see as inadequate oversight and Utah’s history of lax regulation that has helped fuel the state’s residential treatment centers. [Read the full story here.]

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