Ogden's Heritage Festival celebrates diversity, railroad history

Monday , May 07, 2018 - 5:15 AM3 comments

OGDEN — Junction City has long been a place where people and things come together.

It was the first permanent white settlement in Utah, bringing Europeans into contact with indigenous peoples. It’s the place where Mormons and gentiles sometimes cooperated, sometimes clashed. It’s not far from where the Transcontinental Railroad — built on the backs of immigrant labor — successfully linked East with West. And it’s where, during the heyday of passenger train service, many African-Americans came for a chance at better-paying jobs as porters and waiters with the railroad.

As such, much of this town’s mingling came courtesy of Ogden’s railroading history. So it only seems fitting that, in May, Ogden’s Union Station would host an annual Heritage Festival.

RELATED: Union Station redevelopment may require train tracks to be moved

May 12 is National Train Day, according to Holly Andrew, museum and programs director for Union Station. What’s more, May is also Utah Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month in the state.

“It made sense to have something at this time to celebrate the wonderful, diverse heritage of Weber County and Northern Utah,” Andrew said.

The fourth annual Heritage Festival is planned for Saturday, May 12, in and around Ogden’s Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave. The event begins at 10 a.m. and continues through 7 p.m., both inside and outside the station.

Admission is free.

RELATED: Ogden City dissolves Union Station agreement, will take over management

Andrew said that, unlike some events, the Heritage Festival attempts to represent the varied identities in Northern Utah.

“What the railroad brought was religious, cultural and ethnic diversity,” she said. “The festival celebrates that true grit and pride — that wild heart — that Ogden and Weber County has.”

Andrew said organizers are hoping for a good turnout this year, and if all goes well, the plan is to expand it to a two-day event by the time the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike arrives in 2019.

Andrews expects about 25 booths from community groups, offering everything from information to food. A kids’ section will offer children’s activities such as face-painting.

One of the booths will feature a cooking demonstration by a Chinese railroaders group.

“They’ll talk about the foods and equipment used by Chinese-Americans as they built the railroad,” Andrew said.

Performers throughout the day will include WSU Ballet Folklorico & Tutulli, Ogden Buddhist Taiko Group, Scariff School of Irish Dance, ScandiDance, Al-Mustafa Foundation of Utah, Karpaty Dance Ensemble, Lomond Highlanders Pipe Band, Joe McQueen Quartet and more.

Andrew said Union Station officials are looking to increase the visibility of the Heritage Festival.

“This is something that celebrates all of our communities, and our railroad heritage,” Andrew said. “And, we’re making history as well, through the lives we live today.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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