When I was a young boy growing up in Tremonton, our family visited the Golden Spike Historic Site at Promontory Summit every Easter. These outings led to my fascination of the transcontinental railroad.
In 2016, I resolved to organize a blowout celebration for the Golden Spike’s 150th anniversary to “party like it was 1869.” I was convinced Utahns would plan big for this celebration. My mantra became “Move over winter Olympics, it’s time to bring home the Gold – the Golden Spike.” And we did.
As a student of history, I was motivated to tell the complete story of the thousands of workers who toiled in harsh conditions, fueled by meager provisions but hoped for a better life. When the last spike was driven, our country dramatically changed. The legacy of this moment on May 10, 1869, proves great things are possible with vision, hard work, dedication, ingenuity and collaboration.
I am humbled by the generosity of so many Utahns who gave money and time so this remarkable achievement in our nation’s history was not forgotten. Among those who enthusiastically and unconditionally supported the Spike 150 initiative included our U.S. senators and congressmen, Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah legislators, county commissioners, area mayors and the amazing Spencer Fox Eccles, Scott Anderson and Dell Loy Hansen. Special thanks to key partners that include the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, Union Pacific, National Parks Service, Deseret Management Corporation and KSL.
Yes, we really partied like it was 1869! Hundreds of thousands of people from six continents and around the state of Utah participated in more than 150 celebratory events. There were pageants and productions in Collinston and Corinne; horse parades and train festivals in Brigham City, Heber and Ogden; art exhibits in Helper, Springville, Provo and Salt Lake City. New musicals, plays, symphonies, and operas were composed and debuted across the state. There were 416 news stories that covered the celebration that reached around 415 million people in Utah, across the United States, and around the world.
At Promontory Summit, we delighted hearing the Spike 150 Children’s Chorus and Band with youth from Utah’s 29 counties. We enjoyed commemorations, historical speeches, reenactments and the musical premier of As-One in which Craig Jessop, a Utah State University professor of music and dean of the Caine College of the Arts, served as the show’s executive producer.
For the finale, the crowd reveled when a special rendition of the National Anthem began. The youth chorus sang accompanied by the band that featured six brilliant, powerful trumpets. The Anthem music was synched to a fun daytime firework show provided by Lantis and concluded with a streamline procession of four F-35 jets from Hill Air Force Base. KSL televised the celebration and students saw the live production in their classrooms via Utah Education Network (UEN).
I am a proud Utahn. I witnessed amazing kindness, support and generosity from diverse individuals and organizations that worked “As One” for the Spike 150 celebrations. My heartfelt thanks to all of you, I will always be grateful.
Go online to spike150.org/events to watch the May 10th celebration at Promontory Summit. You’ll see Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham’s historical speech. Plus see the premiere of the original musical “As One” produced especially for the Spike 150 celebration that recognizes the efforts of all the rail workers.
Doug Foxley is chair of the Golden Spike Foundation.