PROVO -- None call it a conspiracy. Few dare link it to religion. But despite the lack of candor from city leaders, municipally ordained inactivity on Sundays is a fact of life in Utah County.
Libraries are closed, the silence at recreation centers deafening and no one is making waves at city swimming pools. Like swamps, Christian Sabbath days in this predominantly Mormon county -- 90 percent of the 350,000 residents are Latter-day Saints -- are stagnant. The only ripples of activity are at local churches.
"We don't roll up our streets and sidewalks on Sundays, but there's not a whole lot going on," acknowledges Pleasant Grove Mayor Ed Sanderson. "We refer to the valley here as Happy Valley, and it's been that way for as long as I can remember. I don't know why, really."
The stated reasons for Sunday closures are rarely religion. Instead, city officials simply insist the costs are too high and public interest too low to open public pools, libraries and gyms. It always has been that way.
"Never been a request to open on Sundays," says Payson City Manager Andy Hall.
"I don't even watch TV on Sundays," adds Springville Mayor Hal Wing. "I don't know what is open and what is not."
Even in Provo, which closed its outdoor swimming pool on Sundays in 1994, Mayor Lewis Billings is reluctant to wade into an issue that he says his predecessor, George Stewart, already settled. Billings says it would not be prudent to rehash an issue that divided Provo back then and has Farmington in hot water now.
"That issue has been haggled over and fought over long ago, and I don't want to go back and fight those same battles," says Billings, a stake president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who made keeping municipal facilities closed on Sundays a theme of his mayoral campaign in 1997.
Not that Provo is unique on that score. Sunday swimming, like a Relief Society coffee klatch, is an oxymoron in Utah County. Taking a dip in a pool on Sunday is regarded widely here as a sin. Not that there is much virtue in keeping the Mormon Sabbath holy in Utah County -- at least not at municipal facilities. That's because residents do not have a choice. The list of things to do at city-owned facilities on Sunday is an exceedingly short one.
"We go to church on Sundays," explains Orem City Manager Jim Reams. "What does the rest of the world do?"
Well, Salt Lake City residents can go to the ice rink or take in a concert at downtown's Gallivan Plaza, check out books at three of the city's six libraries, watch Buzz baseball at Franklin Covey Field or view exhibits at the Sorenson Multicultural Center.
West Valley City residents can attend concerts and sporting events at the E Center, work out at the city's new fitness center and golf. Sunday swimming, golf and ice skating are recreational mainstays in Murray as well.
Recreation seekers also can swim, work out or attend concerts and plays at Salt Lake County-owned facilities, including Capitol Theatre or Abravanel Hall. Most recreational centers in South Jordan and West Jordan also are open on Sunday. The 18 county-owned libraries, however, are closed -- as are most organized recreational leagues.
"We are a pretty normal urban area when it comes to Sunday recreation," says Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation spokesman Jim Braden.
Indeed, Sunday play is common north of the Point of the Mountain. But not south of it. Not in Utah County.
In Provo, residents cannot even reserve a picnic pavilion in a municipal park on Sundays and some park restrooms are locked.
A college city of more than 100,000 residents, Provo is so dead on Sundays even burials are rare. That may be because burials are forbidden by city statute on Sundays and major holidays except in cases of contagious disease.
Sunday activities at other municipal facilities in Utah County are just as lifeless. Again, religion rarely is mentioned when Utah County elected officials discuss the dearth of Sunday recreational opportunities -- lest anyone accuse them of imposing Mormon standards on the whole community.
Not all elected officials, though, share that reluctance.
For example, Salem officials discourage swimming at the city's 11-acre pond out of deference to community religious standards. Mayor Randy Brailsford says Salem's fatherly admonition against Sunday swimming stems from Brigham Young's promise to Salem youths that they would be protected if they kept the Sabbath holy.
"We've only had two [kids] drown in the pond over the last 50 years, and both of them were swimming on Sunday," he says, adding they also were from out of town.
Payson Mayor Gordon Taylor says his philosophy is to keep Sunday activities at a minimum.
But Sunday closures pose serious challenges for some, particularly Seventh-day Adventists, whose traditional day of rest is Saturday. Pastor Nelson Oliveira says many families in his Provo congregation would like the opportunity to go to a municipal gym or pool on Sundays.
"Too many officials in the county assume everyone belongs to the same religion," he says. "We do not."
If they like golf, though, Seventh-day Adventists are in luck. Every municipal course in the county is open on Sunday, one of the few exceptions to the municipal ban on Sunday recreation.
Billings says the decision to open Provo's East Bay Golf Course on Sundays was made by Links Management, the private company that runs the course for the city. If municipal golf ever comes to Orem, Mayor Jerry Washburn vows his city would make the same arrangement if Sunday play is necessary for the course to turn a profit.
Critics have had a field day with such logic.
"It's the Pontius Pilate approach," says Spanish Fork golfer Jon Steed. "By turning it over to a private company, these guys can wash their hands of the filthy lucre Sunday golf generates."
Ironically, two private courses in Utah County -- Cascade Fairways and Thanksgiving Point -- are closed Sundays.
East Bay's second busiest day is Sunday, according to course golf pro Kean Ridd. That generally holds true at municipal courses in Payson, Springville and at Tri-City, the course co-owned by Pleasant Grove, American Fork and Lehi. Mayors and city managers are at a loss to explain why Sunday golf is OK, but nothing else is.
Not content to limit Sunday activities at city facilities, Highland wants to limit private enterprise as well. All businesses in the upscale northern Utah County haven are closed on Sunday and beer sales are consigned to the private Alpine Country Club. In fact, beer is not sold on Sundays at any store in Utah County. There is, however, one exception to Highland's Sunday shutdown rule: the Kountry Korner convenience store.
"It's open because some people don't plan [for Sundays] well enough and may run out of gas," explains Highland City Administrator Barry Edwards. "It is also needed for people driving through Highland from out of town. Restaurants would be allowed to open, if we had any."
Before allowing a Smith's Food and Drug store to locate in Highland, city leaders are demanding that officials of the large grocery chain abide by the town's Sunday shutdown and beer-prohibition rules.
Resident Ruth LeBaron, daughter-in-law of the Highland's first mayor, frankly acknowledges the Latter-day Saint influence on city politics.
"If the predominant religion's values are visible in our community's ordinances, it's because that's the way we think and feel," she says.
Other businesses decide on their own to take Sundays off. Harmon's, for example, recently closed its Orem store on 800 North after a survey showed many respondents would not shop there because it was open on Sundays. Latter-day Saint leaders encourage church members to patronize stores that close on Sundays over those that stay open.
Perhaps the biggest Utah County business to abstain from Sabbath commerce is the Orem University Mall. Mervyn's is the only store open there. Mall Manager Rob Kallas says if the mall's other large stores follow Mervyn's lead, he probably would open the entire shopping center.
Provo Towne Center, on the other hand, requires its tenants to engage in Sunday trade as a condition of their lease.
But unless shopping is considered recreation, there is not much to do outside of going to church. Kite-flying or a walk in the park, weather permitting, are options. Utah Lake or the nearby canyons and mountains also loom as Sunday recreational possibilities.
Or county residents can take one nonchurchgoer's advice.
"Go to Salt Lake," says American Fork City Administrator Carl Wanlass. "That's what I always do."
Set in the center of Davis County, Shadowbrook is a mostly white, mostly LDS neighborhood that, in large part, mirrors the surrounding county. Ethnic minorities here remain largely unseen by their white neighbors.
In fact, many white Shadowbrook residents say they have no neighbors of color, while others can recall a darker face or two from their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward but struggle to attach names with the faces.
Shadowbrook, in Kaysville, is the third-least diverse neighborhood in a county that is more than 92 percent white, according to the 2000 Census.
The subdivided homes are new, large and boast tidy, well-landscaped yards. Folks are quick to mention how nice the area is and how safe they feel.
"We all kind of look out for each other," Lynell Craner said. "I don't feel bad about calling any one of my neighbors and telling them to watch out for our house while we're on vacation.
"In our old neighborhood in Layton I would have never called our neighbors and said we're leaving. I would have been as quiet about it as possible."
Lynell and Adam Craner have lived here for six years after spending 1 1/2 years in a comparative melting pot in north Layton where they lived near Pakistanis, Vietnamese, Koreans, Hispanics and a Japanese woman married to a white man.
They liked the diversity but thought their neighbors, not any race in particular, didn't keep up their yards.
In Kaysville, the Craners feel safe and enjoy their neighbors. But does that have anything to do with living in one of the county's whitest neighborhoods? Probably not. In this nearly monochromatic county, diversity is a relative term.
"I didn't really notice," said Clearfield resident Jerry Wilcox after being informed she lived in one of the county's most diverse areas. "Really, it is quite white."
North and west of Shadowbrook, in Layton, Raphael Thompson lives in Davis County's third-most diverse census tract. Thompson, a 13-year-old black boy who goes by his middle name, Handsome, enjoys peace and nice neighbors -- just like the Craners.
"I know everyone, so they're cool to me," he said. "They don't care if we play basketball late or if you play your radio, and if you had a loud party they wouldn't call the police or nothing."
The neighborhood is nice, Thompson says, because he can leave his bike or scooter outside at night and nobody will take it, unlike in West Valley City where his friend left his bike out overnight and found it gone the next morning.
Geraldine Salazar similarly relishes the mix of relative diversity and low crime. She recently moved to the area so her granddaughter, Alicia Gomez, could attend nearby Vae View Elementary, which Salazar says is a better school than those in Ogden, their former home.
"It's peaceful. . . . It's a nice place to live," she said.
Indeed, sans census data it would be difficult to differentiate between diverse and homogeneous neighborhoods. The countywide crime rate is minute -- lower than in the five nearby counties: Weber, Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele and Box Elder, according to the Bureau of Criminal Identification's most recent data.
And despite being Utah's second-most densely populated county, Davis has little poverty and no homeless shelters. Still, residents say they notice differences between diverse and homogeneous spots.
"You just don't have the broken homes and the single mothers struggling," said Diane Jensen, who has lived in Shadowbrook for a half dozen years after living in a more diverse Bountiful neighborhood.
"I've had people tell me that when you live in (Shadowbrook) that's just about the same as living in the city of Enoch" -- an ancient city whose residents "were of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them," according to LDS scripture.
As for the neighborhood's diversity, Jensen says she is content with the status quo.
"Do I wish there was more diversity? I'm happy with the way things are," she said.
One noticeable difference between diverse and homogeneous areas is housing.
Residents in Davis County's most homogeneous areas are more likely to live in newer, more expensive homes than people living in the county's ethnic neighborhoods. On average, the homes in the county's three whitest census tracts cost about 30 percent more than those in the three most diverse census tracts. And the county's most diverse area -- near an industrial park called Freeport Center in Clearfield -- is composed solely of apartments and rental housing, according to statistics from the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget.
Tanya Spangler, who is one-quarter Cherokee, lives in that diverse census tract near Freeport Center. She says she feels neglected and excluded in a neighborhood that, despite being Davis County's most diverse, is still relatively white.
"I don't go to church, but I think everyone around here does," she said. "We've gone to neighborhood meetings and barbecues and nobody socializes with us.
"There's a lot of judgmental people. Not Mormons, but people in general. My husband (who is three-quarters Cherokee) has long hair and a lot of tattoos, and after we moved in we heard -- through word of mouth -- that everyone thought we were selling drugs, and we don't even do drugs, so that's uncool."
Spangler and her husband clearly don't fit the Davis County profile.
Jack Pickrell, who lives in northern Centerville -- Davis County's least diverse neighborhood -- probably sums it up best.
"Pretty much everybody is white and pretty much everybody is Mormon."
PROVO -- Commuters listening to Squatters beer ads while driving along the Wasatch Front know that St. Provo Girl can do it all.
She can tie the perfect fly with pocket lint, lip gloss and a few strands of her honey-blond hair -- all while driving up Provo Canyon.
But promoting the German-style pilsner in Utah County could be a tall order for this Swiss Miss-like Renaissance woman who serves as the mascot for the Salt Lake City brewery that makes the beer. And do not look for Schirf Brewing Co. in Park City to pitch Polygamy Porter in Provo when that beer debuts in a couple of weeks.
It is not because breweries and liquor manufacturers cannot promote their products in Utah County. The state lifted the blanket ban against beer advertising in 1996. Ads for stiffer spirits are OK, too, now that a federal appellate court has overturned Utah laws barring most wine and liquor promotions.
Still, the ruling is not expected to create much of a stir in Utah County; the place already is a tough market for alcohol.
"We like to say we sell one case of beer a week in Provo -- no matter what," quips Schirf Brewing Co. founder Greg Schirf. "We thought it would be fun to put a billboard touting Polygamy Porter across the street from BYU, but concluded it would be a waste of time."
An oft-recited proverb at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University helps explain why: "Students don't smoke, drink or chew or hang out with those who do."
BYU students are not alone on that score. In Utah County, 90 percent of residents are Mormons taught to abstain from alcohol. Plenty of area newspapers, radio stations and ad agencies shun tobacco and liquor ads as well.
"We are all church-going people here," Soter Associates Vice President Boyd Karren says of his Provo ad agency's refusal to handle tobacco or liquor clients. "None of us drinks, and we are all personally opposed to the consumption of alcohol."
Same goes for the Utah County Journal, a free weekly sent to 92,000 homes. Publisher Levor Oldham says there is little demand in the area for alcohol ads. Even if there were demand, Oldham would not run such ads. "There are enough problems in life without us having to advertise things that are not to our benefit," he says.
Provo's KSRR Radio, housed in the former Osmond Studios on 800 North in Orem, also practices prohibition where alcohol and tobacco spots are concerned.
The approach of Provo's Daily Herald, however, is more like the policy at that city's pool. "We will not run [alcohol ads] on Sunday," says Kirk Parkinson, publisher of the 34,000-circulation daily newspaper.
Publisher Martin Conover of the weekly Springville Herald will take any advertising he can get -- as long as it's legal. "Liquor companies have run beautiful color ads in Newsweek, Time and other national magazines sold in Utah for years," he says. "Only local publications were restricted from running the ads until now. . . . So whoop-de-do if the Springville Herald runs liquor ads. My [LDS] bishop might cut me off forever, but I doubt it."
Conover may never find out. Despite the federal ruling, beer and liquor companies seem largely uninterested in advertising in Utah County -- at least for now.
Shayne Durrant, Utah County regional sales manager for Reagan Outdoor Advertising, has never sold billboard space to a liquor company.
"I don't believe the question has ever come up," echoes David Witt, owner of direct-mail firm Money Mailer of Utah County. Big Four Distributing, which delivers Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, Uinta and Heineken beer to area stores, leaves advertising to grocery stores.
That is news to Conover, who does not recall grocers ever putting beer ads in Utah County papers. "I don't know if any grocery stores have the guts to run them," he says.
Restaurants, barred from telling patrons that wine or spirits were available with meals until last month's ruling, remain squeamish about promoting alcohol to their Utah County diners. Gary Sutter, director of operations for Utah's Olive Garden restaurants, says he will wait until the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission drafts new ad regulations before making changes.
Private clubs such as La Casa in Lehi and Club Atchafalaya in Provo also have no plans to run liquor ads.
There are a few trailblazers, however. Vic Balsano, owner of Ottavio's Italian restaurant in downtown Provo, now has his servers telling diners up front that wine and spirits are available, and he plans to start putting ads in the newspaper.
Sharon Gibbons, who has seen St. Provo Girl on a billboard in Salt Lake City, fears the fallout such ads might bring in Utah's second-largest county.
"They will have a very corrupting influence on our children," says the Orem resident. "Take the St. Provo Girl. . . . She is not very wholesome-looking. I don't know anybody in my neighborhood who looks like that."