By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–You might say Todd Prince is much more than a park manager.
Since joining the Frontier Homestead State Park and Museum in 1997, he has worn many hats and his job continues to evolve as he welcomes visitors to the annual “Christmas at the Homestead” celebration set for Dec. 4 through Dec. 9 in Cedar City.
This year’s celebration with special events and entertainment will run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is ($ 5 per family). The Christmas Holiday Market (featuring over 30 vendors) will be Friday, Dec. 8, (5:30 to 8 p.m.) and Saturday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission (to the market) on Friday is included in Christmas at the Homestead admission price. On Saturday, the cost is $ 1 per person to the Holiday Market.
This year’ event will feature the Utah Shakespeare Festival along with historic themes from an old-style ‘frontier celebration’ of local heritage and traditions. “We plan to feature more than 30 artisans with hand-crafted items during the Christmas market place,” said Prince. “There will also be live evening entertainment with time-honored stories, music and ‘pioneer’ crafts, from card-printing to candle dipping.”
The week-long event will feature lighting design by Festival Properties, a unique Christmas-Tree display at outdoor exhibits, with complimentary treats for an anticipated 3,000 plus visitors.
“We want visitors to enjoy walking through an authentic mix of pioneer structures with colorful holiday trees and atmosphere,” said Prince. “Partnering with the Utah Shakespeare Festival has given us an opportunity to expand our celebration plans, so it’s a great chance for people to enjoy an affordable, but unique holiday experience.”
This is where local Christmas tradition comes alive, said Prince from his office made full with books and journals, catalogues and periodicals. “For me, it’s a vast place to explore the history we share as a community… and it seems there are always new innovations being added to exhibits.”
Prince, who earned a degree in history and Archeology — began his career at the Anasazi State Park Museum – a 12th century ancestral Puebloan village in Boulder and later, served as curator and archeologist at the Edge of Cedars State Park (an excavated village), with an invaluable collection of Anasazi pottery and artifacts based in Blanding.
“When I arrived at the Museum (Park) they had just finished a master plan, with some projects implemented, and some not,” said Prince, “But over the past 10 years, we’ve been able to generate the outside funding which was needed to develop programs and the background for historic structures.” He adds that there is a solid mix of public and private partnerships (in mission and goals) in Iron County.
In past years, SUU has traditionally held vast archives (with some artifacts); while the Museum maintained some archives but mostly artifacts. “So technology has changed that dynamic – in that we can be a real presence for residents to access their local history and to answer the questions on why we, as a community exist, and evolved.”
According to Prince, real progress has been made in combining infrastructure projects with great exhibits and interactive, hands-on programs.
The Museum features a main exhibit hall, and multiple historic structures that are designed to showcase everything from pioneer demonstrations to hands-on exhibits, interactive displays with authentic models of pioneer industry. More recently, the Hunter House (circa 1866) has been meticulously restored to its original interior (for tours) and private rentals available for a unique, step-back-in-time experience.
“We also looked at an early survey that said — ‘Yes, we’ve been there, but it doesn’t really seem to change much,” said Prince of exhibits. “So there was a perception that we needed a new approach, and we took all of those comments to heart.” Over the past 10 years, Prince has seen the staff and Foundation put more emphasis on experience and hands-on, or interactive learning.
The Foundation likewise took a snap shot of who was visiting and why.
“In short, we found that 62 percent of visitors came from places like Clark County, Nev., and from Calif., with about 38 percent being Utah residents, (six percent from foreign),” said Prince. “But it was clear that people who visit want to include our history in their travel experience.” He notes that volunteers, staff and supporters didn’t want to become a big, dusty building filled with old documents and artifacts.
At this year’s “Christmas at the Homestead” event, families can walk through various (outdoor) historical structures each decorated with themed holiday trees, enjoy craft demonstrations, traditional music, food, music and visits by Santa nightly. “You’ll find a great back story of the pioneer families that made Iron County their home,” said Prince with a smile, “This is where history becomes your story.”
For more information, call 435-586-9290 or visit www.frontierhomestead.org