October 13 marks a unique convergence of anniversaries in the combined celebration of three organizations most influential in developing, promoting and connecting Southern Utah to the rest of the nation.
In grand fashion, The Friends of the Gerald R. Sherratt Library at Southern Utah University will celebrate the legacy of the Union Pacific Railroad, the Utah Parks Company and the Library’s own Special Collections in its annual Friends of the Library Gala, though this year’s celebration will be unlike any other in both scale and custom, beginning with a reunion, of sorts, for former employees of the Utah Parks Company from the ’20s through the ’70s.
Celebrating 90 years at the Saturday evening soiree will be the Utah Parks Company, the organization that has transported tourists to nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks since just after their establishment as protected national lands. And taking guests back even further in history—150 years, to be exact—the Union Pacific Railroad will celebrate its founding that very same night. The evening will include displays and performances that mark this industrial transcontinental pilgrimage, and that is just the beginning.
These two hallmark organizations helped create many memorable moments. Keeping much of that storied history alive is Sherratt Library’s own Special Collections, the Library Gala’s third honoree, marking their 50th anniversary.
Founded by then Library Director Tom Challis and Librarian Inez Cooper, SUU’s Special Collections has become a repository of historic collections highlighting Southern Utah’s history. Unlike any other historical collection, the Sherratt Library’s Special Collections has become and important resource for students, scholars and historians.
Among its artifacts is an impressive collection of Utah Parks Company material, which will be on display at the October 13 Gala. An exhibit featuring historic Union Pacific photos will also be displayed, and video clips of the Utah Parks Company’s memorable “SingAways” will also be aired. Featured snippets of the film Union Pacific, shot on location in Southern Utah, will further enhance the evening with a personal touch.
Additionally, representatives from both the Union Pacific and the Utah Parks Company will address guests, many of whom will be former employees of the two historical organizations.
The Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with registration and hors d’oeuvres in the main lobby. At 7 p.m., a formalized program will begin in the Garden Level with remarks from Union Pacific Director of Public Affairs, Daniel Harbeke, and former UPC employees Mary Ellen Edmunds and brother Paul Edmunds will address the audience. Mary Ellen Edmunds is a popular speaker, who worked in the Utah Parks as a young lady, and has authored several books.
Following the program, attendees will join in a live SingAway in the Huntsman Reading Room at 7:45 p.m. Birthday cake will be served to the sounds of hits from the 1940s and 50s, played by SUU’s Jazz Band.
Tickets for the Gala are $10 per person and may be purchased on the library’s website.
The sponsors of this year’s Gala are Union Pacific Railroad, Bryce Canyon Natural History Association and Friends of the Gerald R. Sherratt Library.