Here comes the sesquicentennial.
You’ll notice that nobody even has to ask “What sesquicentennial?” It’s like those celebrities who are famous enough to be known by just one word — like Cher, or Madonna, or Prince, or Bono.
Say “sesquicentennial” these days, and everybody knows you’re referring to the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike to complete the nation’s first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County. It’s an event a century-and-a-half in the making, and Box Elder and Weber counties are at its very epicenter.
Although the actual date is still a little over a week out, the party’s getting under steam early with nearly a dozen things to do in the next week.
So, without further ado, here are 11 sesquicentennially awesome things to do in advance of the big weekend that will allow you to, in the words of the Spike 150 organization, “Party like it’s 1869” …
1. “Spike 50: The 1919 Parade in Ogden” exhibit
This exhibit features photographs taken during the 1919 50th anniversary Golden Spike parade in Ogden. Featured in the display are images from local photographer Charles Maccarthy.
The exhibit was on display during March and April at Weber State University’s Stewart Library in Ogden. For the month of May it now moves to Ogden’s Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave.
Hours at the station are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission to the exhibit is free.
For more information, call 801-629-8672.
2. “The Railroad in Cache Valley” exhibit
A new exhibit about the changes the railroad brought to Cache Valley after the driving of the golden spike opened Wednesday, May 1, at the Cache Pioneer Museum, 160 N. Main St., Logan.
Hours for the display are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays through the end of May, then 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 24. Admission is free.
For more information, visit www.cachedupmuseum.org.
3. AgeWise Express Conference
This year’s AgeWise Conference, presented by the Weber County Organization for the Elderly, will celebrate Utah’s railroad history and the sesquicentennial celebration — in addition to providing education and resources for healthy living and lifestyle choices among seniors.
The event runs 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today, May 2, at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden.
Registration includes a continental breakfast, lunch, breakout sessions, and more than 35 vendor and resource booths. Keynote speaker for the conference is Craig Wirth, producer of “Wirth Watching” on KTVX Channel 4.
Cost for the conference is $20.
For more information, call 801-625-3770.
4. Wedding of the Rails Quilt Show
And now, for the softer side of the sesquicentennial celebration.
The Wedding of the Rails Quilt Show will be on display today through Saturday, May 2-4, at the Utah State University Brigham City campus, 989 S. Main St. Admission is free.
The exhibit will feature quilts that commemorate the driving of the golden spike and the history of the area. It will also feature wedding quilts and family quilts.
An opening reception is planned for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today.
In conjunction with that reception, USU’s F. Ross Peterson will present a lecture at 7 p.m. He’ll speak on the topic of “Why Promontory? The Joining of the Rails and What It Meant for America.”
The quilt show will continue 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Organizers say that in addition to the finished quilts on display a quilt-in-progress will also be stretched on frames during the exhibit. Visitors will be invited to add their stitches “and be part of the next 150 years of history,” according to organizers.
For more information, call 435-723-6249.
5. “Infamous Ogden on the Menu: Railroad Edition”
Historian Sarah Singh of Weber State University’s Special Collections will tell some of Ogden’s more infamous stories as they relate to the railroad — including robbery, riots and fire.
The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, at the club Alleged, 201 Historic 25th St., Ogden. Admission is free, but the lecture is being held at a bar, so participants must be age 21 or older.
For more information, call 801-990-0692.
6. Box Elder County Sesquicentennial Opening Ceremonies
The county where it all started is hosting a parade and hoedown this weekend.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4, a horse parade will showcase the lifestyle of 1869 with authentic period dress and equipment from all of Utah’s 29 counties. The parade will be held on Main Street in downtown Brigham City.
Then, at 6 p.m. that evening, the Box Elder County Sesquicentennial Hoedown kicks off at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds Event Center, 320 N. 1000 West, Tremonton.
Admission to both the parade and dance are free.
For more information, visit www.boxeldercounty.org, or call 435-734-3315.
7. Mark Hopkins Railroad Display
Here’s some interesting trivia: The Double C-Spring Buggy that was owned by Mark Hopkins, a merchant and railroad developer, will be on display from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, May 6, at Wagon Land Adventure, 8709 W. Highway 102, Tremonton.
Hopkins was one of the four investors who funded the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s.
Admission to this buggy display is free.
For more information, visit www.wagonlandadventure.com.
8. “Chinese Migrants and the Transcontinental Railroad” lecture
This presentation, by Stanford University English professor Shelley Fishkin, looks at her research regarding Chinese workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad.
Fishkin’s lecture will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in Ogden’s Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave.
Admission is free.
For more information, call 801-629-8672.
9. “Citizen Wong”
A staged reading of a new play inspired by the life of a man considered “the Asian-American Martin Luther King Jr.” comes to Ogden next week.
“Citizen Wong” will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in Ogden’s Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave. (Additional performances are at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, at the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts, 800 W. University Parkway, Orem; and at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 40 South, Salt Lake City.) The staged reading will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the playwright, actors and co-directors.
Admission to all performances is free.
According to a news release, the fictional romance drama was inspired by true events and real people, and is based on 15 years of research by journalist and actor Richard Chang.
Chang not only wrote the play, but also stars as the title character Wong Chin Foo. The six-member cast also includes actors Kristian Auten, Bonnie Black, Alex Carroll, Zach Lusk, and Eric Mead.
Wong, who was naturalized in 1874, is considered the first Chinese American. He was a speaker/writer/activist in the late 19th century who “campaigned against calls for an ‘anti-Chinese wall,’ the Chinese Exclusion Act, and federal government efforts to deny birthright citizenship,” according to the release. He had visited Ogden and, most likely, other places in Utah on his nationwide lecture tours.
The play is produced by the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. It is directed by Ernest Abuba and Chongren Fan.
For more information, visit www.panasianrep.org.
10. “The Crossing: Box Elder’s Golden Treasure”
Next week, the Old Barn Community Theatre will present “The Crossing: Box Elder’s Golden Treasure.” The original show features vignettes exploring the history of Hampton Ford as an original stage/freight crossing of the Bear River.
Shows are at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, May 7-8, at the Old Barn Community Theatre, 3605 Bigler Road, Collinston.
Admission is free, but reservations are required by calling 435-452-1674.
11. National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association’s 12th annual conference
If you really want to geek out on the history surrounding the sesquicentennial, consider attending this four-day conference that explores Utah’s history with wagon trail tours.
The conference runs Wednesday through Saturday, May 8-11, in Tremonton and Promontory Summit.
It costs $45 to join the association, then another $100 for the conference registration fee.
For more information, visit www.stagecoachfreightwagon.org.