October 1, 2016

The Helper Art & Music Festival

During the last week of August, Helper hosted its 16th annual Arts and Music Festival.

“The entire place was jam-packed, you couldn’t find a place to park,” says Becca, a waitress from the Balanced Rock who helped to organize the children’s art workshops.

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Morgan Lund and Jinnie Fontana-Lund purchased the Helper City movie theater and one adjoining building. These former SLC residents are renovating the space and organizing a theater program in Helper.

She estimated there were at least 5,000 people in attendance. With Helper becoming a clear destination for artists, more artists from various disciplines are beginning to relocate and buy property in Helper.

Jinni Fontana-Lund and Morgan Lund, who now reside full time in Helper purchased the Helper movie theater three years ago. They were also able to purchase the adjoining building that was a former hotel and office building. “I bought it all on a credit card,” said Lund, joking about how inexpensive the property was.

Lund is an actor who has performed with the Salt Lake Acting Company and other regional roles. He and his wife Jinni are starting a theater program that will be affiliated with the College of Eastern Utah in Price. The City, along with patrons, have renovated the town’s Rio Theater where the acting company will perform. With the success and reception they found at their reading of Santa Maria Save Us—a Carbon County Story at the recent arts festival, they believe the theater will attract a good audience from both Helper, Price, and the college.

Small Town = No Rules

“I believe everyone in America should live in small towns. We should be a country of 500,000 small towns,” said David Dornan. He explained that it’s rewarding to know that a individual can make a difference.

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The Mavidakis’ are renovating a former brothel to become Helper’s first bed and breakfast.

Dornan gave an example how, even operating with a very small budget, Helper City managed to renovate the city park. “It was like a barn raising, everyone got involved. I found a huge rock that I arranged to have hauled in; others worked on hauling sod and gravel,” Dornan added, “I can talk to the Mayor on a daily basis. That just wouldn’t be possible in a big city.”

Another added benefit Dornan explained was the absence of city ordinances and rules, which has been a tradition in Carbon County “Here there are no rules. Here you see people with yard ornaments, the artists who come to the workshops can look at the old metal rotting out in a field and be inspired by it. In Salt Lake City there are too many rules.”

The Mavidakis family recently moved back to Carbon County after living in Seattle for 15 years. They purchased a former boarded up brothel and are renovating it into a bed and breakfast. The huge undertaking has already required 6 months of work. The slower pace enhances family life.