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Provo Balloon Fest celebrates 35 years of aerial amazement

Rising along with the morning sun, several hot air balloons dotted the skies above Provo on Wednesday to kick off the Freedom Festival’s 35th annual Balloon Fest.

“Today we’re doing a kind-of pre-show,” said Susan Bramble, chairman of the Balloon Fest and a board member of the Freedom Festival, hoping the preliminary flights event will give pilots time to practice and excite the community.

The full Balloon Fest will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, beginning with a pilot briefing at 6 a.m. each morning.

“We like to get up as soon as we can, just because of the heat,” Bramble said. “The hotter it is, the less likely it is we’ll fly.” Bramble estimates between 10,000 and 20,000 people will come out to the Balloon Fest for each of its three mornings.

New this year is a balloon glow, which will be held only Friday evening approximately from sunset around 8:55 p.m. until roughly 10 p.m.. According to Bramble, 10 hot air balloons will inflate to light up the evening sky, but not leave the ground.

“It looks like there are Chinese lanterns everywhere,” she said.

Attendees will witness the spectacle of 31 hot air balloons on the three mornings of the event, three of which will be tethered to offer rides to kids 14-years old and younger only, according to Bramble.

“We can do 200 rides in a morning if we just keep it with the kids,” she said, noting that kids allow for more people to fit into the balloon baskets at once and their lighter weights allow for less propane to be wasted. According to Bramble, rides in other balloons will not be available to the general public.

Bramble also urged attendees to mind their surroundings, and keep their heads on a swivel while enjoying the event.

“If there’s a rope on the ground, it’s probably going to come up,” she said. “The balloons need space to inflate.”

However, Bramble encourages hot air balloon enthusiasts of all ages to check out the balloons and talk with the pilots, whom she said often love to share their love of ballooning with others.

The last day of the festival will hold a memorial for Eddie Clements, a pilot who had participated in the balloon fest every year and died shortly after last year’s event. He piloted the Autumn Fantasy 4, a yellow-and-white balloon with maple leaves on it.

BYU unveils highly-detailed model of campus, involving customized trees

Brigham Young University’s newest buildings are certainly unique. Each was individually 3D printed, carefully painted and placed on campus.

They also happen to only be an inch tall.

Each of the campus’ 81 buildings and its 367 acres are represented in a comprehensive model of the campus, unveiled Tuesday afternoon in the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center.

“It is something we want folks to come and experience for themselves, and it will give them a new perspective about this campus and the scope of campus now that they couldn’t have before,” said Jim Kasen, the director of university relations at BYU.

The diorama was created by WhiteClouds, an Ogden company that creates 3D models. The model required 2,759 hours of design work, 650 hours to 3D print the buildings and 240 hours over four weeks of installation work.

Each inch of the model represents 45 real feet. The model also includes 700 Tic Tac-sized cars and 600 trees, including 123 handcrafted ones modeled after real campus trees.

Although the model includes inches upon inches of tiny, fake grass, shining streams and lighting that allows visitors to tap on a kiosk to locate a specific building, it only depicts two people.

Stephanie and John Sorensen, alumni who funded the entire project, are shown holding hands outside of the Heritage Halls.

“That was really fun,” Stephanie Sorensen said. “We’re the only two people on the whole diorama. They show us holding hands there, which is really fun for us.”

John and Stephanie Sorensen met while on a blind date with other people outside of Fox Hall, which has since been demolished. John said it was love at first sight.

“For me, it was extremely pitter patter,” he said.

Stephanie Sorensen told the designers it would be neat if the two of them could be depicted outside of Fox Hall. John Sorensen said the two, tiny figures can represent any BYU couple falling in love.

They both saw the model for the first time when it was unveiled on Tuesday. John Sorensen said he hopes it helps visitors see campus in a faster, easier way.

“It’s spectacular,” he said.

The idea of a model was proposed in 2015 and design work began last year.

Kasen said the university didn’t previously have a detailed model of campus. He said the diorama allows BYU’s thousands of annual visitors to feel the spirit of campus and for prospective students to be able to see where their future classes might be.

“This allows them to see the real scope of campus,” Kasen said.

In addition to BYU, the model also includes miniature versions of the Provo Library and the Provo Utah Temple.

Payson temple worker's hairstyle opens bigger discussion on diversity

A worker for the Payson temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently experienced the impact of church culture clashing with perceived policy, and the results have been hair-raising.

Tekulve Jackson-Vann, 38, of Spanish Fork, and a temple ordinance worker, serves voluntarily on Saturdays in the church’s temple in Payson — and wears dreadlocks.

Jackson-Vann’s cultural hairstyle is a new thing for him, but he said he wants to get back to the roots of his heritage, which is 90% African, including countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

“I decided to grow locks,” he said. “I wanted to feel more close to the culture. This is a big change. I even prepped my patients for the drastic change.”

Jackson-Vann joined the LDS Church when he was 9 years old, attended Brigham Young University and served a full-time mission. He is now a counselor at the Provo Canyon School.

His story is seemingly more about splitting hairs than perhaps putting it into locks.

Jackson-Vann knew that showing up for his temple shift might cause a commotion, so he reached out beforehand to his shift supervisor.

“I sent a photo of my hair to the shift coordinator,” Jackson-Vann said. “There was no need to be anxious. He sent the pictures to the temple president who looked at the guidelines.”

Jackson-Vann was initially told he would not be able to serve as a temple ordinance worker with his hair styled in that fashion, because it might cause concern with some of the patrons.

“I was told, ‘But we would love to see you in the temple,’” he said. “I would still go to the temple; it keeps me grounded.”

In an excerpt from the Priesthood Handbook of Instruction 1 concerning temple workers, it says, “They must be mature in his or her knowledge of the Gospel. They should be in good health, emotionally stable, dependable, respected in the church and the community, and work well with others.”

In all other areas of temple worthiness, Jackson-Vann was in good standing. He wanted to see if he could have a greater discussion with the temple president on the hair subject.

“I felt deep inside we needed to talk about the culture in the church,” Jackson-Vann said.

The temple president called the LDS Church Temple Department for guidance. As long as he was clean and his hair was clean, he was told there is nothing to keep Jackson–Vann from serving.

“President (Lawrence Ralph) Duffin handled this entire incident the way a temple president should,” Jackson-Vann said. “He got a few calls and more guidance and quickly reached out to me.”

In an April 2001 general conference talk, President Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, talked about temples and the necessity to be prepared not only spiritually but physically.

“One prepares physically for the temple by dressing properly. It is not a place for casual attire,” Nelson said. “We should dress in such a way that we might comfortably attend a sacrament meeting or a gathering that is proper and dignified.

“Within the temple, all are dressed in spotless white to remind us that God is to have a pure people. Nationality, language, or position in the church is of secondary significance. In that democracy of dress, all sit side by side and are considered equal in the eyes of our Maker.”

In the discussion between Jackson–Vann and the temple president, an apology was extended and a conversation began.

“I don’t fault the temple president at all,” Jackson-Vann said. “Here in Utah, it’s not a natural thing and may not be understood. It’s good this happened so policy was clear going forward. It was one of those times when church culture was confused with doctrine.”

However, according to Jackson-Vann, it was time to talk about racism in the temple.

While Jackson-Vann said he didn’t see the dreadlocks as a racism issue but more cultural insensitivity, he and others said they have experienced racist comments or issues while attending the temple. He talked with the president about those as well.

Jackson-Vann said he and others have had comments such as, “It’s nice to see your kind here,” or “It would be nice to have more of your kind here.”

He said he was once stopped in the celestial room of the temple, believed to be the holiest place in the building, and was asked what part of Africa he was from. His answer was Georgia.

Jackson-Vann is the Young Men president at Genesis. Genesis is an auxiliary organization of the LDS Church for African American members and their families. He said it was important for his young men to see and hear how the incident was handled and that their cultural hairstyles and testimonies would still be accepted in the temple.

Since the spread of Jackson-Vann’s story, he has received mixed comments from mostly well-meaning individuals who told him to conform and obey rather than question and discuss.

Jackson-Vann’s response is that questioning in the right spirit is OK, and he believes that is how to receive revelation. That is how Joseph Smith, the first president of the LDS Church, did it as he described seeking answers to which church he should join as recorded in the church’s scripture.

“Leaders need to be open with members,” Jackson-Vann said. “Let’s recognize those differences and not ask people to be the same.”

The church continues to grow throughout the world and build temples.

Currently either in use, construction or announced, there are seven temples in Canada; 64 in Mexico, Central and South America; 15 in Europe, Scandinavia and United Kingdom; nine in Africa; 15 in Asia; and 15 in Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand.

Jackson-Vann said it is important to remember there are many cultures that don’t fit the Utah culture, but all are members of the church and all are asked to become one.

“The Lord asked us to be one, not to be the same,” Jackson-Vann said.

New ICE facility for Utah immigrants could be in Wyoming

SALT LAKE CITY — A new detention facility for immigrants behind bars in Utah could be built in Wyoming, a plan that is triggering backlash from immigration attorneys who say the long drive would make it difficult to visit clients.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin requesting proposals later this month for a 250-500 bed facility that it prefers be within 90 miles of the Salt Lake City area, according to a notice posted last week.

That radius would include Evanston, Wyoming, where Utah-based Management and Training Corp. plans to submit a proposal for a facility, company spokeswoman Issa Arnita said. She said the company plans to partner with Uinta County officials in Wyoming on the proposal, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday.

Evanston is a city of about 20,000 people right across the Utah-Wyoming line, about 85 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

Immigration attorneys in Utah say they are worried that building the facility in Wyoming would make it more difficult for families and lawyers to visit people who are detained.

The radius for the facility is smaller than when ICE first began discussions two years ago and said it would consider proposals within 180 miles of Salt Lake City. The agency said it is refining its strategy.

There is no firm timeline to choose a company and location, and a decision would be made sometime after a “thorough review” of the proposals, ICE spokeswoman Alethea Smock said.

ICE began moving people last year to places like Nevada and Colorado after Utah County ended its contract in 2016 to hold immigration detainees in its jail.

Utah County received about $1 million in revenue each year to pay for staff services for holding ICE detainees until the contract ended in 2016.

The shortage of funding led to a significant falling out between the Utah County Commission and then-Utah County Sheriff James Tracy, who volunteered retired early over what he claimed was a communication breakdown of budgetary priorities.

A group of people protested the company’s role in immigration detention last year by chaining themselves the company’s headquarters in Centerville, Utah. Eight people were arrested.

The company said at the time that it is only a contractor for ICE and doesn’t play a role in policies.

Utah State Historical Society 

Abraham O. Smoot III marches beside a World War I tank during the Fourth of July Parade in Provo on July 4, 1918.