- Mark Nelson
Heber Valley Railroad Wizard's Train
What Harry Potter fan hasn't dreamed of receiving an owl-delivered letter telling them they are a witch or wizard, and then getting to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express?
The Heber Valley Historic Railroad offers a way to make this dream a reality—albeit one that isn't officially licensed with the Harry Potter brand. Departing from the Heber Depot and traveling along a scenic route through the valley, the Wizard's Train is a family-friendly magical adventure.
The journey includes mingling with costumed staff dressed as versions of popular characters like Professor Dumbledore, Luna Lovegood and Bellatrix Lestrange. Visitors can also visit the Sorting Hat in order to be sorted into one of the four wizarding houses. As the train gets rolling, guests can explore the train and visit the concession car to receive magical snacks like chocolate frogs and (non-alcoholic) butterbeer, and check out magical items such as wands available for purchase.
Ava Magalei, a staff member on the train, says that while they work really hard to bring these themed train rides to life, it's the guests who make them truly memorable. "I love that they're so excited about the stories that we're trying to tell, and that they're just as caught up in the magic as we are," Magalei says.
While car seats and strollers are not allowed on the train, young children are welcome. Kids 2 and under do not require a ticket to board. The total train ride lasts approximately two hours. (Kylee Ehmann)
Wizard's Train @ Heber Valley Railroad, 450 S. 600 West, Heber City, 435-654-5601,Aug. 2-3;Oct. 12, 19, 22, 26 & 29,7 p.m., $25, hebervalleyrr.org
- Shawn Saunders
Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival
The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival might only be celebrating its fourth year, but it hasn't taken long for the event to carve out a unique space in the local arts community. For playwright Morag Shepherd—who has worked on a piece for the festival in every one of those four years, including this year's Hindsight (pictured)—it's the place where she knows she can take any idea that challenges an audience.
"The thing that I love about the Fringe is, it's a place where you can really go big or go home," Shepherd says. "People expect something a little bit different, so you can take a chance."
For 2018, the Fringe Festival—which showcases 30 theater, dance and performance pieces over two weeks—takes up residence in a new venue, making use of several former storefronts in The Gateway. For festival director Shianne Gray, moving to downtown brings these works closer to the heart of the local arts community. "We're really excited that we'll get to reach a whole new audience," Gray says. "With everything that's going on with the cultural core, we can kind of jump on that train."
Those who have never attended a Fringe Festival before can expect shorter (usually under 60 minutes) pieces that represent the kind of inspiration Shepherd had after she read an absurdist Russian theater piece. "It was really weird, really abstract," Shepherd says, "so I kind of let loose on the absurdity of it. The whole process was like, 'This is going to be for Fringe.'" (Scott Renshaw)
Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival @ The Gateway, 110 S. Rio Grande, Aug. 2-12, dates and times vary, $10 per show; $24 3-pack; $70 10-pack, greatsaltlakefringe.org
- Leigh Righton
Marc Maron is not your typical stand-up guy. For one thing, he looks like the college professor who continually challenges whatever conclusions you reach in his class. For another, he's extremely self-analytical, using his self-effacing comedy to articulate his insecurities, past failures and struggles with addiction. He once told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon that his range of emotions was limited to "aggravated, sad and thoughtful ... on occasion."
That's evidenced through the various mediums in which Maron operates, from his stand-up specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Netflix to his frequent appearances on the late night talk-show circuit, his four critically acclaimed comedy albums, two best-selling books, his stints on radio and television (Maron on IFC, the Netflix series Glow, and recurring roles on the series Girls and Louie) and his fleeting role in the film Almost Famous in which he played an angry agent. Then there's his popular podcast WTF, which finds him hosting celebrities of the highest order—Barack Obama, Robin Williams and Keith Richards among many—for casual conversations broadcast from his garage. WTF garnered 250 million downloads during its first six years, and continues to rack up six million downloads per month.
For all those successes, Maron admits he's had shortfalls as well. He says he failed his Saturday Night Live audition because he was high while talking with Lorne Michaels. His matter-of-fact delivery doesn't spare anyone, himself included. "My entire existence is ironic," he once noted. Like everything he rails about, that's an understatement as well. (Lee Zimmerman)
Marc Maron @ Wiseguys SLC, 194 S. 400 West, Aug. 3-4, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., $30, wiseguyscomedy.com
- Thomas Brown via Wikimedia Commons
Antelope Island SpiderFest
The eight-legged residents of Antelope Island seem to overrun the state park each year. But far from making it a site of terror, this annual event is marked and celebrated by the staff at Antelope Island with a day-long SpiderFest celebration.
The day is filled with a variety of spider and spider-related educational talks, walks, face-painting and other activities. Additionally, this is also the first year SpiderFest is open to art vendors, with local artisans displaying a variety of woodwork, watercolor, wax and other crafts related to spiders and their ecosystems.
Wendy Wilson, naturalist and assistant manager at the visitor center, says they understand not everyone is going to like spiders even after the festival, but they hope the event can still dispel myths and get people to appreciate spiders' role in Utah's environment. "The event is just to help people understand the value of spiders. Love them or hate them, they have an important place in our ecosystem," Wilson says.
Most of the arachnids visitors see are among the many subspecies of orb weaving spiders, which is what Charlotte fromCharlotte's Webwas. But there are plenty of other spiders, such as jumping spiders, tunnel weavers and the black widows, the only spider of medical concern in Utah.
Parking at the visitor center is limited, but organizers provide a shuttle system for visitor overflow. The event itself is free, but park entrance fees still apply. (KE)
Antelope Island SpiderFest @ Antelope Island Visitor Center, 4528 W. 1700 South, Syracuse, 801-773-2941,Aug. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $3-$10, stateparks.utah.gov