Dec. 18 was a bittersweet day for Payson City Councilman Doug Welton when he realized his seat would be replaced.
For the past four years, Welton has sat in council chambers, giving pause to critical things pertaining to the future of the city he loves so much. Yet each time he tried to move forward, something stopped him. Things weren’t rolling quite like they used to, and it was time for a change. He knew it. The rest of the council members knew it and they all agreed that the brown leather chairs needed to be replaced.
“I loved my chair, but it didn’t roll right, and there was a tear in the leather,” Welton said. “It was time.”
These chairs weren’t just any old set of furniture, however. They are part of history — Hollywood history. Many of the scenes in the 1984 film, “Footloose” were filmed in Payson, including a scene in council chambers itself with the very same chairs used by current and former council members.
In a public Facebook announcement, Welton wrote about the moment of transition.
“Feeling a little nostalgic today,” he wrote. “We finally replaced the Footloose chairs from the movie. We’ve had the same chairs for over 30 years. I like my new chair, but must say I feel a sense of loss knowing that I am no longer sitting in a chair that John Lithgow or Kevin Bacon may have sat in.”
While Welton may not be sure if the actual seat he sat in was the one occupied by Lithgow’s character Reverend Moore, the position of his current seat, Welton says, is the very same as the famed characters.
“If you watch the scene where Kevin Bacon’s character, Ren, is addressing the city council, John Lithgow’s character is sitting second from the left, and that is where I sit,” Welton said.
Welton, who was just a child when the film crew rolled into town, said he remembered the excitement.
“I remember being excited to hear that a movie was being filmed in Payson,” Welton said. “I heard that they were going to film at the high school but didn’t know about other places.”
Little did young Welton know that he would someday occupy the same chairs as those Hollywood actors. According to Welton, however, it isn’t just the brown leather chairs that give him and other council members a connection to the famed movie. Welton said he feels a great need to give the younger generation a voice much like Kevin Bacon’s character, Ren, sought in the movie.
“What many may not realize is that Footloose isn’t just a movie about dancing,” Welton said. “It’s about the younger generation — the future — having a voice. I feel very strongly that our youth need to have a voice in the future of our community. A former student of mine and former Payson City Youth Mayor Rebeca Knapp is our very own Ren McCormack. She started an important movement for youth to get involved, called Project 320. I hope that these new chairs will be filled with those of the younger generation who also have goals for the future of Payson.”
As for the old chairs that no longer occupy council chambers at City Hall, Welton says the city may auction them off or see if a museum would like to have them on display. Maybe Lithgow, Bacon or Hollywood itself might enjoy a piece of Payson, Utah history.