BYU museum celebrates Utah heritage with block party

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Local residents connected to Utah’s historical roots Saturday at the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures’ annual block party.

Museum staff held the party in celebration of Utah Archaeology Week and titled the event “Utah’s Heritage: Rich and Alive.”

Officials closed a section of 100 East in front of the museum to provide space for a stage and activities. Several Utah historical organizations helped host the event.

Deborah Squires of Elk Ridge participated alongside other members of the Pioneer Heritage Company.

“When you capture your past — when you take it into your heart and capture those feelings — it makes you hold on to the present in a more tender, vibrant, passionate way,” Squires said.

Deborah Squires weaves a cloth on a traditional loom during the Museum of Peoples and Cultures' annual block party on Saturday. (Photo by Sarah Hill)
Deborah Squires weaves a cloth on a traditional loom during the Museum of Peoples and Cultures’ annual block party on Saturday. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

Attendees captured Utah’s past through a variety of interactive activities. While Squires demonstrated the workings of a pioneer loom, performers on stage filled the air with the beat of Native American drums.

A badger-capped mountain man caught the attention of young boys with his explanation of old-age firearms. Other children explored an authentic Native American teepee and dug through a mock excavation, finding beads and arrowheads to take home.

Chad Wright of Springville helped participants make their own clay marbles, a typical activity for pioneer children. He spoke of the value of events such as the museum’s block party.

“If you make a creative, multi-sensory experience, it’s far more memorable and meaningful,” Wright said. “You learn things that wouldn’t make sense if you’re just reading a book.”

Wright’s wife and four children also helped with the event. His 11-year-old daughter, Avery, said she became hot in wool socks and her pioneer dress, but she loves teaching other kids to play pioneer games.

Wright’s wife, Mandy, sat helping girls make corn husk dolls. “It’s a quality time that you spend together in a different kind of way,” she said. “It’s something different than the normal things that families usually do.”

Gary Fields is head of the Orem-based Native American performing group, Morning Star, which performed several native dances on Saturday afternoon. Speaking to the crowd, Fields highlighted the diversity in Utah’s early history.

“Each of us, regardless of our individual heritage, has a special story to tell,” Fields said.

Nine-year-old Maisie Bayly came to the museum with her grandparents. After guessing different kinds of animal fur on display, she had a lot to say about the importance underlying the block party.

“What if years later all of these traditions and things you’ve learned are lost?” Bayly asked. “It’s great to know about them now so they don’t get lost in the future.”

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