Well, 2012 did not bring a zombie apocalypse, a Mitt Romney presidency or a roadblock in front of the looming fiscal cliff (knock on wood). It did, however, have its unexpected moments -- a possible Bigfoot sighting in Provo Canyon, a BYU student who defied the honor code without defying the honor code by creating bearded T-shirts and the discovery that not only is badminton an Olympic sport, but people cheat at it. Who knew? We at the Daily Herald did not. We did, however, know of some other interesting happenings that happened right here in Utah County. Talk about these at your New Years party.
The LDS Church made a few announcements -- racism is not OK and caffeine is not against the Word of Wisdom. BYU students took advantage of this to petition for caffeinated beverages on campus, insisting that Diet Coke would in fact sell out at football games.
In actual news, LDS President Thomas S. Monson announced that the missionary age was changing -- 18 for men and 19 for women. The number of missionary hopefuls quadrupled in the first few weeks. Young men fretted about who they would date if all the young women were on missions.
And, in an attempt to promote change, a bunch of women wore pants to church, although most of them were not in Utah County, and a bunch of people got really upset that women wanted to wear pants to church. Most of them seemed to be in Utah County.
It gets better
The LDS Church also unveiled www.mormonsandgays.org, a website designed to help members talk to friends and family members who are gay. The website clarifies the church's stance that homosexual attraction is not a sin and includes videos and stories from gay members and family of gay members. Gay rights activists called it a step in the right direction.
The website was preceded by gay BYU students and parents of gay students creating their own "It Gets Better" video and a standing-room-only forum of gay students talking about their experiences.
Room for a view
Church leaders announced plans for a 9-story building on the MTC campus. Neighbors, many of them LDS, rebelled, saying they liked their view of Mt. Timpanogos. They also said they were promised that the church would not build taller than five stories. Stake leaders may or may not have pressured the protesting neighbors, depending on who you ask.
The LDS Church, for all intents and purposes, won the argument -- then announced it would not be building the 9-story structure, saying talks with the neighborhood should continue. Days later, the coming influx of missionaries was announced, leaving one to wonder if a 25-story behemoth was in the future.
Just kidding! I hope.
Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire
The county was on fire. Dump, Wiley, Pinyon, Quail, West Lake, Tank, half a dozen unnamed ones that were extinguished quickly -- close to 15,000 acres of Utah County burned this summer. The Wood Hollow Fire also burned close to 47,000 acres, mostly in Sanpete County, but its smoke covered the south end of the valley. Officials pleaded with target shooters to not shoot on dry days, to not shoot exploding targets, to not shoot on private property, all in an attempt to keep the hot, dry county from lighting up like a tinder box. Fortunately, no one died and no homes burned, although a training village on Camp Williams did go up in flames. And the fires provided photographers with excellent opportunities to get pictures of what appeared to be mushroom clouds blossoming over the mountains.
Meanwhile, in Elk Ridge, wannabe firefighter Kade Johnson set a number of fires, then offered to help volunteer crews put the blazes out.
Long crime coming
Martin MacNeill, a Pleasant Grove doctor who just got out of federal prison for identity theft, was charged in the 2007 death of his wife, Michele.
Meanwhile, Orem police nabbed Reinhold Neumann, a man they say tried to kill two police officers in 1999, then disappeared, changed his name and got a new face. He was busted for DUI in Las Vegas and connected to the 13-year-old assault in Orem.
Getting it Wong
Timpview football coach Louis Wong was let go in March, and hundreds of angry supporters packed a school board meeting and argued that he should stay and the school board should go. Wong had his license suspended for a year after an audit report showed a pattern of improper expense reporting and questionable financial practices; he said earlier in the year that any issues were the result of a lack of training. Assistant coach Cary Whittingham replaced Wong, and the T'Birds won another state championship.
Building up and tearing down
FrontRunner? Check. I-15? Check. Convention center? Check. Spanish Fork Costco? Check.
Downtown Provo? Not so much. Between the City Center Temple and the Nu Skin building it's all construction all the time. The fate of the post office remains undetermined. Midtown Village in Orem, much like a Big Mac, looks almost exactly the same as it did a year ago.
They weren't quite Janet-and-Justin scandalous, but we had our moments. A young woman was asked to leave the Provo High School prom because she wore a one-shouldered dress, resulting in a maelstrom of comments both deriding and defending the dress code. Also at Provo High, student resource officer Cody Harris dropped his pants at a staff member's birthday party to reveal a green Speedo. (In his defense, it was a "Princess and the Frog" themed birthday party, and he was not the princess.) A report showed he dropped his pants a few more times before the end of the day. He was fired but later reinstated.
Steve Densley, the longtime CEO of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, retired. Hal Wing, the founder of Little Giants Ladders in Springville, died at 72, as did author Stephen Covey, 79.
Also, BYU said goodbye to its daily newspaper -- The Universe is now primarily online, with a print edition once a week -- and to its dream of getting No. 1 high school hoops recruit Jabari Parker to don Cougar blue. He opted for Duke blue instead.