Editor’s note: Many of this summer’s city celebrations throughout Utah County have been postponed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But we recognize the festivals and festivities themselves are still rooted in the tradition and history of each individual city. In lieu of the actual gatherings themselves, the Daily Herald is still spotlighting the stories behind each city’s celebration during the period it would normally take place in our “Festival Flashback” series. Today, we look at Saratoga Splash.
The Saratoga Springs city celebration called the Saratoga Splash comes by its name through a heritage of some of the best water resort spots in the county.
“The Saratoga Splash started many years ago as a neighborhood celebration to honor the old resort,” said AnnElise Harrison, civic events coordinator.
Since the city incorporated in 1997, the event has moved from the neighborhood to the Smith’s grocery store parking lot and more. Then it finally landed at Neptune Park, 452 W. 400 North, which features more room, a stage and facilities to really have a big celebration.
“We were strictly volunteers in the beginning,” Harrison said of her events committee. “With growth we had to take it to the next level.”
The Splash offers many of the same events you might find in other city celebrations around the county, but with a few very wet exceptions.
The celebration, while offering carnivals, car shows and fireworks, also has the annual Splash Bash. People from several neighboring cities are often found joining in on this event during the hot days of June.
The Bash, in full partnership with the fire department, is a day of water sports, competitions and full buckets of water being tossed at participants in a citywide water fight. It offers water slides, water balloon launches and tubs of water provided by the fire department, according to Harrison.
“Our Youth Council helps come up with that event,” Harrison said. She notes that it keeps the teenagers actively involved with their city.
There are other unique venues as well, like a watermelon-eating contest, diaper derby, ice cream making contest and chalk walk.
According to Harrison, while COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of the regular events that would have been held this week, the city is holding a virtual celebration and encouraging families to join in.
For instance, families have been asked to do chalk art in their driveways, take a photo of it and send it to the city. They can also take a scavenger hunt around town and locate 100 things about Saratoga Springs.
While the Splash has only been going since 2004, the event continues to grow. In 2017, residents celebrated the city’s 20th anniversary. That year’s theme for the Saratoga Splash was “Remembering the Past, Looking to the Future.”
Saratoga Springs was the fastest-growing city in Utah between 2000-2010, according to David Johnson, Economic Development director and city spokesman.
In that decade the city grew more than 1,600%, Johnson said.
“We are still in the top five growth cities. We average about 3,000 new residents a year,” Johnson said. “Ten years ago we had about 15,000 residents, we now have about 38,000.”
Before there was a city of Saratoga Springs, there were the springs themselves.
According to city history, settlers from Europe and the East Coast of the U.S. came to the area because of the natural hot springs.
John Beck, a land owner from New York, and his family started the Beck’s Saratoga Springs Resort around the hot springs in 1884. They made it their family home.
The resort brought in a number of tourists and locals looking for the healing factors they believed the springs could give. It was a popular place, according to the city’s history.
The original resort was state-of-the-art with water slides, an amusement park, and other fun resort-style features. It remained a popular place to the 1990s, according to city history.
The resort area is now a part of a private development that contains an outdoor pool, clubhouse, a bowery and kitchen facility for groups and parties.
“In the early 1990s, landowners began to investigate the possibilities of developing the land around the hot springs and in the foothill locations of Lake Mountain,” the city reports. “The Utah County land development ordinances were not sufficiently urban in nature so several landowners sought incorporation as a town. Subsequently, Saratoga Springs incorporated in December of 1997.”
The city has a linear shape that contains 21 square miles. While there ware farmers and settlers here for years, many of the farmers have sold family property for housing developments.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns about 3,000 acres in Saratoga Springs and uses it for church farms, according to Johnson. The church is currently building a temple in the city.
Growth and jobs to sustain its growth are what gives Saratoga Springs some of its appeal.
“According to the 2010 census, our resident median income was $80,857, which is 30% higher than the rest of the state,” Johnson said. “However, according to more recent estimations, Saratoga Springs’ median income is now well over $90,000.”
With growth around the four corners area intersecting with Redwood Road, Johnson said many other businesses have been attracted to the area.
“For a few years now I have worked with Costco,” Johnson said. “They are opening in August.”
Johnson added that Saratoga Springs has a Smith’s Marketplace, new retail stores and restaurants.
“Fat Cats, known for its bowling and arcades, is opening its first new build that includes a theater, bowling alley and arcade,” Johnson said.
Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah Medical Center are both building hospital complexes in the city.
With the continued pace of growth, Johnson said the city will have about 53,000 residents in the next five years.
Johnson also said the city center is planning to move closer to the lake with a large park, marina and the ability to use Utah Lake for more water fun in the future.
In the meantime, Johnson and Harrison want residents to enjoy this summer. They are hoping that by Aug. 3-8 they can have a Splash Bash. However, Johnson said they are paying close attention to the governor’s guidance and rules for gathering large crowds.
“If things don’t move forward, we have plans for a fall festival,” Johnson said.
Harrison and Johnson said they want to do this to keep a good quality of life for their residents.
“Our goal was to do what we can for families to have fun,” Harrison said.
Right now families can see treat vendors pop up weekly at the city parks, get a meal from the food truck rallies, and practice their aim for the Splash Bash, be it in August or next year.