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Mayors of Utah Valley: Our turn to build toward a better tomorrow

By Mike Mendenhall - Special to the Daily Herald | May 27, 2023

Courtesy photo

Spanish Fork Mayor Mike Mendenhall poses with his nephew JT Mendenhall at the 2023 Utah State Junior Livestock Show.

We’re not your dad’s Spanish Fork, but we’re still your mom’s.

Every spring, Spanish Fork hosts the Utah Junior Livestock Show. Next year, the event will celebrate its 100th year! Families from all over the state make the trip all the way to south Utah County, which not too long ago some people thought was right on the edge of the earth, that if you went any further, well, you might fall off. Our city has changed since the first show in 1924 and so has every other city in the state and country.

A quick Google search of 99 years ago: Calvin Coolidge was president. The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 58 for men and 61 for women. Native Americans were just granted citizenship and the right to vote. And Spanish Fork began hosting the annual livestock show because of a vision five years earlier.

That progress began in 1919 when the Strawberry Valley Reclamation Project was developed, which had significant impact on the city and surrounding area. It allowed for cultivation of thousands of acres and also provided the city with a stable supply of water.

You don’t grow good livestock without crops. You don’t grow good crops without water. You don’t get water to make farms and homes without good systems. And you don’t grow good kids in those homes without an understanding of good progress.

Courtesy photo

Lydia Mendenhall parades her pig during the 2023 Utah State Junior Livestock Show.

My niece and nephew, Lydia and JT Mendenhall, once again had hog “projects” in this year’s show. They both did great. Lydia was the winner of the Grand Champion Gilt! When choosing the winners in the arena, the judge from Oklahoma said, “These kids have grown good pigs, but the work into the livestock has grown good kids.” I loved that he pointed out the work.

Spanish Fork has invested more public money and work into the local agriculture and livestock industries than I would guess any other city in the county, and maybe the state. It’s part of our identity and it always will be. Bovine and ballfields. That legacy doesn’t mean we don’t need places to eat, shop, recreate and call home. Pride and progress. One doesn’t need to be sacrificed for the other.

Some dads tell me, “I liked Spanish Fork back in the day.” Some moms say, “I liked it back then too, and I like it today. New homes for our kids and grandkids, new library, new shopping, new jobs, new schools, new restaurants and a new hospital to take care of us.”

I’m trying to be witty with the dad/mom comparison. It’s more a matter of perspective. Hold on to what you enjoy about the past, and work to make the future just as great. That’s what our ancestors did back in 1919 to make this place awesome for us. It’s our turn now. Let’s get to work.

Spanish Fork Mayor Mike Mendenhall.


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