The West View

The West View

By Heidi Steed

Gifted Music School’s ‘Project Grit’ brings music and violin instruction to Mountain View Elementary

At Mountain View Elementary in the Glendale neighborhood, every week during the school year Kindergarten and first grade students get the opportunity to study music from a qualified music instructor. The structured, one-hour class is presented by the Gifted Music School’s Project GRIT, an outreach partnership with the Salt Lake City School District. The aim of the partnership is to identify and reach out to the most at-risk children in danger of not completing high school. Through consistent musical training, Gifted Music School hopes to provide students with pathways to success by using music as a way to increase literacy, improve self worth, develop social skills and improve academic achievement. The program is now in its third year and is already showing results, including lower numbers of absenteeism and decreased behavioral problems among its participants.

In addition to weekly music instruction for Kindergarten and first grade classes at Mountain View Elementary, Project GRIT also provides after school music fundamentals and violin instruction for second through fourth grade Mountain View students, and fifth through twelfth grade students are eligible for limited scholarships to continue study at the Gifted Music School’s downtown campus.

Youth Enrichment Foundation provides piano program in three Salt Lake City schools

The Youth Enrichment Foundation (YEF) has made it their goal to help children build self-esteem, experience success and achieve academically through music. The YEF program was created in 1994 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by Bart & Liz Warner of the Warner Trucking Company. The program is currently funded 65% by the Warner family and 35% by the individual schools the program serves in the Salt Lake City School District, including Whittier Elementary, Glendale Middle and East High Schools. The foundation’s piano program gives students the opportunity to achieve success outside the general classroom by providing professional piano instruction and the opportunity to show off their hard work by performing for their local community. Students have high praise for the program says Bonny Wooten, Youth Enrichment Foundation Music Director. “Many [students] will state that this class is an encouraging, calming, supportive place in which they can be expressive,” she said. Students have said the class "saved my life," "allows me to be myself" and "gives me a place to make friends and feel supported by my teachers.”

U of U Piano Outreach Program brings piano instruction to Backman Elementary School


When school budgets become tight, arts and music programs are often the first to be cut and Title I schools are often the most negatively impacted by the elimination of these programs. The University of Utah’s Piano Outreach Program recognized a need in the community and designed a program that would help ensure that students at Title I schools, like Backman Elementary, would have access to a high quality music education. This outreach opportunity pairs low-income elementary school students with University of Utah piano students in an after school music program designed to foster life-long musical skills and develop students’ self-confidence. The university students get the added benefit of learning to teach piano in a real world environment and can help share their love of music with a new generation of piano students. According to University Piano Outreach Program Coordinator Dr. Mio Cowden, the “goal of the program is to provide the opportunity for all children to experience music. It is our desire to bring back music to all of the Title 1 schools across Salt Lake County. This comes with a real commitment from the University of Utah, our gracious donors, and the leadership of the elementary schools. However, a commitment that is more than worth it when you see a smile come from those who play their first piece of music or perform in front of their friends and family for the first time. That is priceless.” 

Salty Cricket nonprofit provides music education at Mary Jackson Elementary


By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson
Photos by Davey Davis

A nonprofit arts organization called Salty Cricket provides afterschool and summer music classes for students in Pre-K through 9th grade at Mary Jackson Elementary School in the Fairpark community. Every day, participating students receive small group instruction, music theory, and orchestra class. Currently, students may choose to learn violin, viola or cello.

Fairpark residents Nathaniel Eschler and Victoria Petro-Eschler run the music program. In 2008, the couple launched the nonprofit with a composers’ collective called “Salty Cricket.”  They added the El Sistema program, an international program that originated in Venezuela, at Mary Jackson in 2015.  “Jackson’s administration has been very supportive,” said Petro-Eschler.

If all goes well and they receive a capacity-building grant from El Sistema USA, they are planning to expand to Wallace Stegner Academy, a public charter school in the Glendale neighborhood. At this new location, in addition to strings, they would offer wind, brass and percussion instruction.

“We need movers and shakers on the west side to get involved and support [this expansion],” said Eschler.

There are currently two open spots in the El Sistema program at Mary Jackson. To inquire, visit


by Marilyn Shelton

“I have musical ADHD,” said Peter Danzig, when describing his songwriting process and the 10 instruments he plays. He is one half of the Fair Park-based folk band, Otter Creek Duo. The other half of the duo is his wife, Mary Danzig.

“I might keep some lyrics in my head, sort of ADHD style, beginning this whole eclectic mess, and then something emerges out of it… hopefully. Some songwriters start with lyrics, I usually start with instruments,” Peter said. Instruments like the steel guitar, the banjo, a couple of mandolins, a bouzouki, a mountain dulcimer, and more.

Otter Creek Duo is currently touring their third album, “The Fiddle Preacher,” this summer, with scheduled appearances in Idaho, Montana, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts.

The album’s title track song, “The Fiddle Preacher” reached #10 on the Folk DJ Charts. It is a fast-paced, rousing song written by Peter, evoking images of prairie campfire dances. Peter and Mary Danzig called “The Fiddle Preacher” a song about celebrating joy in life and embracing your authentic self.

They describe themselves as an “eclectic-folk-Americana-bluegrass band with Celtic influences,” and they draw inspiration from musicians such as Patty Larkin, John Gorka, David Wilcox, Simon and Garfunkel, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

Otter Creek Duo’s name was derived from Mary’s maiden name – Otterstrom. “One day Peter said, ‘If we change your maiden name, which is basically Swedish for ‘Otter Creek’ and just ‘bluegrassed’ it, that’s a good name,” said Mary. “I replied, ‘You know, when we got married I took your name and now you’re going to take mine.’”

The two were childhood sweethearts who first became acquainted in the first grade, as they grew up together in the same Avenues neighborhood. But it was while they both studied music at the University of Utah that they became reacquainted, and later married.

Mary has a master’s degree in violin performance and Peter, a bachelor’s degree in music composition. The two have backgrounds in classical music but became interested in forming a bluegrass band, after they attended a bluegrass festival. It was a pivotal, life-changing moment. Mary said that what she witnessed at the festival convinced her that bluegrass music was the type of music for her. Otter Creek Duo was formed in 2009.

The couple said that their music is often related to current events that inspire them and that their music is meant to carry on oral traditions. 

 “Folk musicians are historians. We’re bringing forward these stories that have been informing us about who we are in this society. And also, what things are going on that need a song?” said Peter.

“The theme of our music seems to really reflect what is going on at the time. I mean, all these different issues that we go through like the environment or immigration…,” said Mary.

“‘Sometimes You Just Know’ is written about a friend of ours. I got down to the courthouse the day that marriage equality arrived in Utah and I called a close friend of mine and said, ‘Get down here, you’re getting married today.’ They’d been together 17 years and had two kids together. So we went down there and did wedding music for everybody. And it was really exciting. I just wanted a song about equality,” said Peter.

Otter Creek Duo’s “Take The Climb” was inspired by the suicide of gay Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, after a roommate posted pictures of him kissing another man on a social media website. “It just hurt my heart to see that someone would feel ashamed of something that they had no reason to feel ashamed of,” said Mary, after channeling her emotions into a song about the incident.

She said that the song “Bidder 77” on The Fiddle Preacher album was written about environmental activist Tim DeChristoper’s protest of a Bureau of Land Management auction of 116 parcels of public land in 2008.

Sometimes they play and record music with their daughters, who also have their own band, called “The Three Muses.”

“We travel a lot during the summer and they always perform with us on the road. I think they enjoy the traveling and have good times,” said Mary.

Otter Creek Duo performed their version of “Down To The River To Pray” on the season 6 finale of “Sister Wives” on TLC.

Otter Creek’s previous two albums are called “Hunter’s Moon” and “Shiver Into Spark.” The band plans to release a fourth album by the end of 2019, called “American Jalopy,” which centers around themes of independence. Peter said, “My dad’s idea of car maintenance was that if it’s still moving, it’s probably worth driving. Why change the oil? It will just burn off,” he laughed. “So I grew up driving all these horrible cars and it struck me that there is something so loveable about American independence. Because it’s like, it’s broken, but we’re going to do it anyway!”

Otter Creek Duo’s music is available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby, and at

By Van Hoover

I didn’t fall in love with the Jordan River on the first date. It was more like the 500th date. Originally it was the backdrop of my bike commute. An unimpressive “bottom of the water shed” kind of river that seemed like it had been treated like a canal over the years rather than a real river.

I grew up poking around the Provo and Weber Rivers, trout fishing and catching snakes along the clear mountain streams. The murky nature of the Jordan didn’t do a whole lot for me in comparison.

Biking was my initial endeavor. I wondered if I could bike the river trail from Midvale to Salt Lake to get to school and work. The endeavor took over two hours initially, but it was exciting to get a workout and avoid driving my car. I started to ride the trail in all four seasons and began to log hundreds of hours on the trail each year.

I began noticing beautiful things: on cold mornings in the winter, water vapor rises off the river and into the light peaking over the Wasatch. The pelican’s arrival in the late spring. The yearly arrival of the same Bald Eagle to the same Cottonwood tree each January. Noticing a Kestrel Falcon drop out of the sky and come up with a mouse. It seemed like, as I started to pay attention to the space around me, the more I noticed these awesome things happening. I was starting to connect with the river and all the life that it attracted.

I decided to get more involved. The Jordan River Community Initiative is a project that resulted from attending the West Side Leadership Institute. I jumped into the endeavor of experiential learning and community leadership. I met other people that were passionate about the river and wanted to improve it, including Gilberto Rejon Magana, the Founder of Hartland Community 4 Youth and Family. We’ve since spent many an hour beautifying the river in different ways and engaging our different communities in river projects.

I decided to take my camera along for the ride and try to capture some of the moments that I experienced on the river. We started sharing the images on social media.

A few years ago, we pitched an idea of creating art murals on old vandalized signs to Lewis Kogan with SLC Open Space. We found funding with the help of the Jordan River Commission to create a Jordan River Art Project that engaged the community in canoeing and river art murals. The project spanned three years and engaged hundreds of community members, youth groups, local community artists, other non-profits, and property owners along the river. After three years and countless hours planning, coordinating, and executing the project, we created over 30 art pieces along the Salt Lake section of the Jordan River and got hundreds of community members involved.

Taking the Jordan River route was the catalyst for adding many valuable experiences and relationships in my life.

By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson
Photos by David Ricketts

The first Tibetan couple came to Utah in the ‘80s. Their long journey led them from Tibet to India to Texas and eventually to Salt Lake City, Utah. They, in turn, helped bring more Tibetans to Utah during the 1992 Tibetan U.S. Resettlement Project. Today, according to the Utah Tibetan Association, there are approximately 270 Tibetans living in Utah, all in the Salt Lake Valley.

Although they are of Tibetan (and some Bhutanese) heritage, Poplar Grove residents Lobsang Gendun and Tsering Teshar have never lived in Tibet. Their parents fled violent Chinese persecution in Tibet in the early ‘60s. Lobsang’s parents escaped to India and Tsering’s mother fled to Nepal.

After the Chinese government slaughtered 1.2 million Tibetans and destroyed thousands of monasteries, the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, precipitating a mass exodus of approximately 80,000 Tibetans to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Fewer than 2,000 Tibetans in these early years were resettled in the West – in Switzerland and Canada. To avoid provoking anger from China, the U.S. was not accepting Tibetan refugees at that time.

Finally, under Pres. George Bush Sr., 1,000 visas were approved by congress and Lobsang applied. His name was drawn, and he left India on August 28, 1992.“We were skeptical coming to the U.S., because we were told that it is the ‘land of no return,’” said Lobsang.

At age 21, Tsering did not want to leave Nepal, but her uncle insisted that she apply for a visa. When he told her that her name was drawn, she didn’t believe him until she saw it with her own eyes. With her uncle’s urging, Tsering left Nepal on Dec. 6, 1992.

At that time there were 22 cluster resettlement sites all over the U.S. Because they did not have official refugee status (and did not receive Federal funding), Tibetans relied on sponsors. They lived with host families – usually only one or two Tibetans per household.

In Utah, the Tibetans were lucky to be able to live together with other members of their community in free housing that was provided for them for two years by sponsors, such as IHC and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All the females lived in housing on 12th Ave and E Street. All the males lived nearby in the old Primary Children’s Hospital, in dormitories in the Annex. This was how Lobsang and Tsering met.

Soon, the new arrivals were connected to mentors who helped them apply for jobs. Lobsang was hired at O.C. Tanner and has worked there for almost 25 years. Tsering started working at Little America Hotel in housekeeping, and a few months later found a job with Abbott Laboratories. After she and Lobsang began dating, she transferred to a job at O.C. Tanner, and has been working there for over 23 years.

They were married on July 16, 1994 at an Episcopal Church downtown. Because they were the first Tibetan couple to marry in Utah, their wedding got a lot of attention.

The Deseret News covered the story and to their surprise, over two hundred people attended – most of whom they didn’t even know. They had a Tibetan ceremonial wedding, but for legal reasons, Judge Raymond Uno was brought in to officiate.

After three or four years, resettled Tibetans began applying to have their spouses and kids join them. After about five years they began gaining citizenship, and started bringing over extended family members. Tsering was finally able to bring her parents from Nepal to Utah in 2001.

Tsering and Lobsang agree that one of the biggest moments in their lives was when they became U.S. citizens in 1998. “When you have a U.S. passport, it has so much value, and respect from the outside,” said Lobsang.

Another point of pride in citizenship was being allowed to vote in U.S. elections. “During our 24 years here, we have seen five different presidents, and have voted in five elections,” said Tsering.

Adjusting to life in Utah was difficult at first, especially for Tsering. There were several feet of snow when she arrived and she remembers it as cold and foreign to her. Even though she had already experienced many years away from home in boarding schools in India, she felt very homesick. This time she knew she was very far away from home. Lobsang, however, did not feel homesick. He was accustomed to living away from his family; he had also attended boarding schools in India from a young age.

At first, Tsering had a hard time shopping and spending dollars, because of the comparative value. (Currently, 1 dollar = 66 Indian rupees.) “We would shop every day for only what we needed, because we didn’t want to waste anything.” Now she shops at Costco and brings home things in bulk. “I guess we have become more ‘American’ in that way,” she laughs.

They still manage to eat their traditional food, but there is one staple Tibetan food they cannot buy here  – “tsampa,” a nutritious and filling food made of barley. Tsering’s mother makes it in their garage – a process that involves roasting and then grinding the barley.

“We have retained our language, food, and religion. But, it is harder for our children,” said Lobsang.

Their first son, Tenzin Tseten, was born on June 6, 1995. He was the first Tibetan baby to be born in Utah. His parents did their best to teach him Tibetan customs and language, speaking Tibetan to him in the home and even sending him to Dharamshala, India during the summers after 7th grade and 11th grade. Dharamshala is where the Tibetan government is in exile and where the current Dalai Lama resides.

Today at the age of 23, although Tenzin is more comfortable speaking to his parents in English, he spent the better part of last year speaking to his grandmother in Tibetan. He has developed a deeper appreciation for his Tibetan heritage and hopes to go to Tibet someday. This summer he is looking forward to traveling with his family to Bhutan and India.

Their younger 16-year-old son, Monlam, who attended a boarding school in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, has lost much of his ability to speak Tibetan, since he didn’t have the opportunity to speak it on a regular basis.

The influence of American culture on each subsequent generation of Tibetans becomes stronger and stronger. This is one of the main reasons the Utah Tibetan community worked so hard to establish a community center in South Salt Lake. With the help of other community sponsors, renovation of the Utah Tibetan Community Center on 165 W. 2950 S. was completed in October of 2015.

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to Utah in 2016, he dedicated the community center and gave it a Tibetan name: Ganjhong Rigne Gahtsel, which means Land of Snow, Culture, and Growth.

“The objective of the community center is to keep our language, food, religion, and traditions alive; to teach our younger generations,” said Lobsang. The center is a multipurpose center with an auditorium, office, kitchen and prayer room. Lobsang and other volunteers show up every Sunday to teach Tibetan language and culture classes to youth at the center. They teach up to 22 youth, most of whom are 3rd generation immigrants.

Members of the Utah Tibetan community had been talking about having their own community center for 20 years. They collected seed money from each adult member of the Utah Tibetan Association, but the money sat until 2014.

Then, says Lobsang, the last group of executive committee members said, “Let’s do it!” Many different sponsors made it possible to buy a warehouse, and renovate it, after U of U Architectural students had a project competition to design the interior. The renovation cost almost $1 million. Today, each Utah Tibetan Association adult member contributes a monthly sum to help pay the mortgage on the center.

“We used to rent other places; now we have a place of our own,” said Lobsang. Each Sunday, two different families provide lunch for the kids and teachers, and the community pitches in to keep the center running.

To learn more about the Tibetan community, or to donate money for their community center, visit


By Atticus Agustin

It is Sunday afternoon and people are gathering inside the Japanese Church of Christ. But at this time, the impressive late Gothic revival architecture is hosting the  Tongan-American Free Wesleyan Church Group. 

In August, the organization will be celebrating one hundred years of existence by keeping many Tongan customs during their festivities.

The Tongan community in Salt Lake City is vibrant and made up of Latter Day Saints, Catholics and Methodists. The relationship between the three is generally peaceful. Intermarriage between the three faiths are not uncommon. The church primarily draws residents from West Valley, Taylorsville and the west side of Salt Lake City.

Tongans have been an immigrant group to the west side since the 70s, with a mixture hailing directly from California and Hawaii. Many of them have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL, but Tipiloma Pupua, pastor of the church, hopes that more in his community will branch into other fields. Pupua’s brother, Tau, is currently a New York-based opera singer.

They chose Utah because of the opportunities it provided. Tipiloma recalls the first time he saw snow when he was five years old: “I thought that if one stepped into the snow, one would melt with it.”

The church is intergenerational. Many of the older church-goers are primarily Tongan-speakers, while the newer generations are bilingual and in some cases, monolingual English-speakers. “It’s something every immigrant group faces [...] but language helps retains culture.”

Even though the meeting house is officially known as The Japanese Church of Christ, three groups share the place: Japanese, Kachin, and Tongan. The Tongan group is in the process of looking for their own place of worship. The pastor of the Japanese group, Pastor Brad, says that the harmonious relationship between the three groups brings a special kind of joy inside the church. There are combined services in the fall and the two choirs sing together in the winter

Wesleyanism was introduced to Tonga primarily from British missionaries. The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga is the only state-sanctioned of that tradition. In 1928, Queen Salote Tupou III established the Free Wesleyan Church as the state religion of Tonga.  

The service I attended recently was entirely in Tongan and some parts were sung in an a’ cappella style. Men and women wear a traditional mat wrapped around the waist called a “ta’ovala.” (The ones made in the west are made of cheaper nylon material). It is what Pupua says is “the tie of the islands.” It represents formality and is used for many special occasions.

Many women wear another fashion embellishment — an ornament girdle around the waist — known as a kiekie. “A good kiekie can take about a week to make. The tree bark fibers are placed underwater under sand and rocks, and then the fibers are weaved,” described one of the congregants during the lunch we shared afterwards at Golden Corral. An entire half of Golden Corral was filled by the flock. An opening prayer song rang through the restaurant. Congregants and church leaders made speeches throughout the lunch that centered on a biblical theme or spiritual advice. A final closing a’ cappella song concluded the dine-out.

GLENDALE — Behind a little bungalow on Cheyenne Street you’ll find a scene that would belong in rural Utah. Nestled among green vegetable plants and fruit trees are chickens, rabbits, beehives, and arched greenhouses.

This productive half-acre lot, owned and worked by Celia and Kevin Bell over the past 14 years, is one of several urban homesteads on the west side, clustered in Glendale. The Bells are surrounded by others working the land and eating or selling what they grow or raise.

Between 2009 and 2011, Salt Lake City relaxed ordinances around beekeeping, residential chicken coops and accessory structures, reducing restrictions on urban agriculture production and opening up opportunities for more residents to use their land productively.

Urban agriculture encompasses farming, community gardening, or homesteading in an urban environment.

Farms are considered a commercial enterprise by the US Census, producing and selling at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products. Community gardens, on the other hand, are collaborative agriculture projects on shared open spaces.

The definition of homesteading is a little harder to pin down, but the concept centers on self-sufficiency and sustainable practices. And here on the west side, some consider it a solution to feeding an ever-growing population and to ethical and sustainability concerns within the food industry.

Amy Jordan, of Glendale, grows food for her family on a “postage stamp” sized property. To do so, Jordan extended what was once her grandparents’ vegetable garden, tore out the lawn and rose bushes, and raised a chicken coop where sheds once sat.

“I couldn’t give up the land that I turned and that my mother turned before me,” Jordan said. “... One of the things [my grandmother] taught me was that you’ll never go hungry if you have a garden.”

Jordan spreads that message, helping to establish gardens at the Dual Immersion Academy and the Sorenson Unity Center. She currently supports the gardens at Mountain View Elementary, where her 13-year-old son has a plot of his own.

“We have to be able to provide food for ourselves, and learning how to grow our own food should be an essential part of our education,” Jordan said. “It should be the most important thing that we learn in school. So that’s why I’ve worked so hard with school gardening programs and getting those going.”

Jordan sees her work at home, too, as an opportunity to educate. She’s conscientious of how her front yard may be perceived by neighbors and makes it beautiful as well as productive. The best way she’s found to ingratiate an unconventional front yard with neighbors?

“An easy way to keep your neighbors happy is to offer them the food you grow,” Jordan said. “As soon as I got chickens, I gave [neighbors] eggs. Now they like the chickens.”

The Bells, too, have dedicated much of their life to spreading the good word about urban agriculture. After living and working on a Missouri community farm for six years, they came back to Utah and started their homestead, bringing some of the country to the city.

In addition to growing and preserving all their own produce, keeping bees and chickens, and raising meat rabbits, the Bells use their professional skills to help others get their hands dirty.

Celia Bell works as a teacher at Volunteers for America in its gardens and greenhouses. She also teaches a class on raising chickens and leads an organic gardening apprenticeship through the University of Utah Continuing Education program.

As a geographic information systems coordinator for the city, Kevin Bell has worked on projects like the SLCgreen Food Mapping project, which helps residents identify gardening opportunities on their properties through digital mapping.

They’re both passionate about what Kevin Bell called the “agrihood”—several adjacent and nearby properties that are used for personal or commercial food production, like the BUG Farms CSA. Members of the west side urban homesteading community work with one another on big projects, swap tips, and even help newcomers secure land in the area.

“It’s nice to know that you have neighbors that are keeping track of what you’re doing,” Celia Bell said. “But it’s not all easy-breezy. We have our fights and arguments. It’s not Shangri-La over here. But that comes with community too; not everyone’s on board. It’s a little bit like herding cats. We all have our own personal freedom.”

At a recent backyard square dance hosted by the Bells, though, friends and neighbors danced, ate, and drank together. Kids petted the bunnies and Kevin Bell offered tours of the agrihood.

Over the music of the Bueno Avenue String Band, Alexandra Parvaz, a resident of the Wasatch Commons Cohousing Association on Utah Street, shared her experience raising chickens and selling eggs there.

“Because this is such a supportive neighborhood for urban agriculture, it makes it easy to bring to reality,” she said. “It’s exceptional and so unique. Supportive neighbors will lend out trucks to haul, say, 1,000 pounds of chicken feed. There’s a lot of amazing social capital for people to take advantage of.”

Parvaz has worked with Wasatch Community Gardens and supervised two gardens on the U. of U. campus for her master’s thesis. She’s adamant that anyone can grow food in whatever space they’ve got – she started in an apartment with just a couple containers of mint and snapdragons. And she says the community is eager to share its knowledge with others.

“It’s definitely not an isolated or insulated place,” she said. “We want people to learn more and be able to implement for themselves.”

If you’re interested in seeing more of the west side’s urban agriculture, check out the Wasatch Community Gardens’ Urban Garden and Farm Tour on Saturday, June 23 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Buy tickets online at You can also find out the growing potential of your yard at If you don’t have space of your own, visit and see how you can get a garden space next summer.

By Nigel Swaby

The 2nd annual Westside Music, Arts and Food Festival will return to Sugar Space on June 16 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Featuring many of the same musicians that made last year such a hit, the 2018 festival has expanded hours and will feature Changing Lanes Experience as its headline act. Besides longer hours, Festival organizers also received a permit to close 800 West in front of Sugar Space. Over 50 art and information booths will line the street and multiple food trucks will be showcasing their menus. This is an all ages event with free admission.

Conceived last year as a way to showcase positive elements of the west side, the festival was a surprise success with multiple vendors and artists who attracted over 500 people in just four hours. With only weeks to prepare last year, this year’s organizers Restore North Temple and the River District Chamber decided to expand both the hours and the venue for 2018. Advanced planning allowed the organizers to receive an “ACE” grant from Salt Lake City to help fund this year’s event. “Generous support from Rocky Mountain Power has helped us immensely both years,” said Aaron Ernst of Restore North Temple. Andeavor is the main stage sponsor for 2018. With more space and marketing support from media sponsors KRCL and The West View,  the 2018 West Side Festival hopes to attract 1,500 attendees.

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The 2017 festival was a blur of activity with performers ranging from Polynesian drummers to bluesman Danny Weldon to the jazz quartet K-Tones. Dancers, aerialists and magicians entertained the crowd on three different stages while food trucks kept the crowd fed with a variety of delicious food. One attendee remarked last year he had the best tacos he’d ever tasted.

Traditions have to start somewhere and event organizers envisioned last year’s festival to be the start of something that would take place many times over the coming years. It’s telling that all the artists and musicians who were invited back, jumped at the opportunity. This year’s festival is the next step in the journey. It looks to be bigger, better and more fun than ever before.


  • Westside Music Art and Food Festival
  • Saturday, June 16, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Headline show: 7 pm - Changing Lanes Experience
  • 132 S. 800 W. at Sugar Space
  • Parking - 200 S.
  • Take Trax to Jackson/Euclid stop
  • Bike valet available

More information

May 10, 2018

A river unites us

By Nigel Swaby

Rose Park, Glendale, Poplar Grove. When one thinks of the west side of Salt Lake City, these neighborhoods immediately come to mind. Residents of the neighborhoods loyally identify with these names. We are proud of these names.

About 25 years ago, a group of community and business leaders formed a nonprofit organization to help promote positive change in west-side neighborhoods. The first focal point was the Rancho Lanes bowling alley. Once a shining attraction, it had fallen into disrepair and was a hangout for drug dealers and other criminals. Dan Stanger of Prowswood Management made arrangements to bring the property out of bankruptcy and renovate it.

A May 29, 1992, Deseret News article described the scenario:

“Prowswood took over the bowling alley and spent a quarter-million dollars to keep the 32-year-old business in operation. It cleaned up the business, painted it, installed awnings, patched the roof, repaved the parking lot and pulled out the outdated swimming pool, then in conjunction with the Salt Lake Police Department opened a neighborhood police station in the alley's store front.”

Soon after that project was completed, the Northwest Merchants Association was formed with the goal of promoting commerce along the North Temple corridor. Two years later, it was announced Salt Lake City would host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. This announcement would bring a lot of change to the city, including major freeway expansion and a light-rail system.

The Northwest Merchants Association became the Westside Business Alliance, a group determined to fight for the survival of North Temple businesses and for a seat at the table for the installation of the “Green Line,” the light-rail TRAX train that travels down North Temple and on to the airport.

It was about this time a study was done by the alliance to choose a name to describe the “west side.” Study respondents would repeatedly mention the Jordan River, which winds through our western neighborhoods on its way to the Great Salt Lake.

So, about 15 years ago, the Westside Business Alliance became the River District Business Alliance.

The river helped shape our neighborhoods. Salt Lake City’s Westside Master Plan, adopted in 2014, notes the Jordan River slowed the development of these communities:

“Low-lying lands along the river were prone to flooding, making agricultural activity difficult. The Jordan River was also a sewer and refuse dump for the growing city in the mid-1800s, a common usage for rivers at the time. This treatment resulted in conditions — odors, diseases and pollution — that made it an unlikely place for residential development.”

A major conclusion from the city’s Master Plan was support for connectivity from the west to the east. The Master Plan notes:

“One of the most common issues brought up in community meetings was the lack of connectivity between the Westside and the rest of the city. This isolation results from the historical development of the city and railroads dating back to the late 1800s.”

When the railroad came to Salt Lake City, west side neighborhoods were divided from the rest of Salt Lake City by tracks, which spurred more industrial and commercial construction than residential. The erection of a freeway system in the ‘50s, and later in the ‘80s, would cement the borders separating the rest of the city. Ironically, I-215 would make these neighborhoods more accessible via auto than almost any other neighborhoods in town.

Vehicle corridors 900 West, Redwood Road, I-15 and I-215 provide remarkable north-south connectivity, but west-east travel is restricted because inconsistent rail traffic makes taking any route other than North Temple or 1300 South a gamble when you’re short on time.

However, a lot has changed over the last 15 years, and west Salt Lake City is primed for real, permanent development and growth. It will take a lot of business investment and community input to steer this growth in ways that truly benefit the neighborhoods.

The development of the Folsom Corridor Trail is a key catalytic project to provide a direct route west from downtown Salt Lake by foot and bicycle. It will create housing, entertainment and shopping options like we’ve never seen before. Daylighting of City Creek, which currently flows to the Jordan River in an underground concrete culvert, will provide an additional river through our neighborhoods.

The business vehicle most cities have to serve such a purpose is a chamber of commerce. Chambers are structured in a way to benefit their members while still serving their overall mission of expanding the prosperity of their communities. In January 2018, the River District Business Alliance voted to become the River District Chamber.

Last summer new leadership was recruited to better reflect the makeup of the business community the River District serves. People like Lucy Cardenas of Red Iguana and Justin Belliveau, who’s opening a brewery on 800 West this year, joined the board. Relationships with community media like The West View and KRCL radio have been developed. And we’re happy to be bringing the Westside Music Arts and Food Festival back for its second year this June as part of the Restore North Temple initiative.

You might be wondering why we kept the name River District when many people remain loyal to their community names? If you recall, the study participants from years ago saw the Jordan River as the common tie binding these west side neighborhoods. Another river runs through these neighborhoods right now, it’s just not visible. It will be revealed as the Folsom Corridor project continues to develop.

As you read through the history of Salt Lake’s west side, you can see it has been dumped in and isolated from the rest of the city. With the city expanding westward, these neighborhoods are becoming crucial to Salt Lake’s future. Like City Creek flowing underground, the hidden gem of the west side is ready to be exposed and that’s why we’re the River District Chamber.

Find us on Facebook at River District Chamber and online at

Key Chamber accomplishments

  1. Recruited a new board and elected new leadership.
  2. Fought for a place at the table for Operation Rio Grande.
  3. Advocated for a balance of affordable housing projects in our neighborhoods.
  4. Advocated for city wide equity in accessory dwelling unit ordinance.
  5. Launched first Capitol Day during 2018 Legislative session.
  6. Formed key media relationships with The West View and KRCL.
  7. Developed new membership structure and benefit program.
May 02, 2018

Why I Volunteer

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