The “Classic American Summer” conjures up visions of small-town fireworks, rodeos, kids riding bikes in parades, drive-in movies and eating shakes at the local burger joint. This version of summer doesn’t exist only in truck commercials or John Cougar Mellencamp songs, though. The old-school summer is alive and well—and doesn’t feel at all cliché when you’re there—less than two hours south of Salt Lake City along the small towns that dot Highway 89 in Sanpete County. (Due to the recent wildfire, caution is recommended when traveling to this area.)
There are a variety of small-town celebrations for July 4 and Pioneer Day on July 24, as well as other festivals and rodeos you can pack your bags for a quick visit to. One you can hit in the coming week is Mt. Pleasant’s Hub City Days, which features a rodeo running July 3 and 4, with a variety of parades and activities on the Fourth.
Mt. Pleasant Mayor Sandra Bigler estimates that about 1 in 3 Mt. Pleasant citizens participates or volunteers in the July 4 parades, festival in the park, rodeo and other activities—which means there’s plenty of room for an increasing number of big-city folks flocking in to soak up the atmosphere. “Every year, I cannot believe it when I see the parade route,” she says. “There are so many people coming here from other places. I think they just like the hometown feeling. You don’t have to fight the large crowds.”
Besides the festivities surrounding July 4, there are also plenty of local businesses serving tasty foods and fun experiences you can only find in these types of places. Here are some of our favorite eats and activities.
Come for the burgers, stay for the movies: The cheeseburgers at the Basin Drive-In Theatre (680 N. State, Mt. Pleasant, 435-462-2712, SanpeteMovies.com) are so good, the drive-in opens at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and people come just to eat and then head home. You can still get them on other nights, usually starting around 8:45 p.m., or whenever you see a line of cars forming along State Street waiting to get in. Beyond the burgers, there’s nothing quite like watching a movie at a small-town drive-in—which is, unfortunately, becoming a vanishing breed.
Ice cold at midnight: It’s nearly midnight on a hot summer night—where do you get an icy treat? The incredibly addictive answer is found in the form of “gourmet snow cremes” at the Sugar Plum Cottage (612 N. 400 East, Spring City, 435-462-9729), which stays open until midnight. The owner makes everything, including the shaved-iced flavorings and the sweetened condensed cream poured on top, completely from scratch. It’s all in the family, as the shop is attached to her house and she cuts the ice on an old machine her family used for making restaurant margaritas. This little place can compete with any shaved-ice shack on Hawaii’s North Shore.
Confess to the bishop: The Bishop Shake at Rodger & Jenni’s Dairy Freeze (1 N. State, Mt. Pleasant, 435-462-2623) is a delicious mix of strawberry, pineapple, banana and nuts named after an LDS bishop who used to regularly come in and order this combination. Whatever your religious affiliation, one taste will convince you he was inspired!
Rubber Duckie, you’re the one: Before the parade on July 4, put down $5 to buy a rubber duck. After the parade, all of the ducks are released into a creek for the annual Rubber Duckie Race (MtPleasantCity.com) and the first one to float to the finish line earns the owner $500. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to legal gambling in Zion.
Pioneers and paintings: Just a few miles south of Mt. Pleasant and named for a freshwater spring in the middle of town that never runs dry, this entire town is listed on the National Historic Register because of its many pioneer-era buildings. It’s also fun to visit the art galleries along the main drag (SpringCityCorp.com, Sanpete.com/pages/SpringCity). Those who want to make it more than a day in the area will find many places to stay, and can even get the quaint bed & breakfast experience, complete with complimentary bicycles, on Spring City’s Main Street at the Osborne Inn (216 S. Main, Spring City, 877-462-1894, OsborneInn.com).
Whatever you choose to eat, watch or participate in, just know that the locals are happy to share their town with you. As Mayor Bigler says, “Just come and enjoy yourself. We love having everybody come down here.”
The Travel Tramps will be writing regularly about their treks in City Weekly, as well as blogging at CityWeekly.net. Listen to Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin on the weekly Travel Brigade Radio Show at TravelBrigade.com.
Hub City Days Mt. Pleasant Rodeo, July 3-4 Children’s Parade, July 4, 11 a.m., followed by Mammoth parade and Rubber Duckie Race. Food, craft booths and entertainment all day. MtPleasantCity.com
Demolition Derby, July 24, FairviewCity.com
Carnival at Ball Park, including famous turkey sandwiches from the heart of turkey-farming country, July 4, Sanpete.com/pages/Moroni
Welsh Days, including Strong Man Competition and lawn-mower races, June 29-30, Sanpete.com