Category Archives: Wasatch Academy

What’s New in the Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area?

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area Restoration projects have been plentiful over the last decade. You may not be aware of the various projects that have been completed inside the boundaries of the MPNHA. While a majority of the work has been on restoring and preserving the history of early Mormon pioneer settlers of the area, there has also been significant effort given to telling the stories of the people who shaped the unique landscapes of the MPNHA.

Over the past 12 years, the MPNHA has assisted 26 communities and seen the revitalization of  45 historic buildings/areas throughout the corridor in the telling of the Mormon pioneer story.

To date, more than 130 different MPNHA grants have facilitated the restoration of historic buildings across the heritage area, breathed new life into towns as part of main street revitalization efforts, and provided educational opportunities, including the MPHNA’s own TV show “Discovery Road” and the book “Legends, Lore & True Tales in Mormon Country,” for members of local communities and visitors to experience the lives of those early pioneers.

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area restoration projects were accompanied by educational programs, and historic sites, the MPNHA has contributed in the development of an agritourism/equestrian center, 3 veterans memorials (in Gunnison, Loa and Salina), trails and biking paths, three museums, commemorative kiosks and pavilions, a railroad village, and interpretive visitors centers, including the Hole-in-the-Rock Interpretive Center in Escalante.

Several of the projects have been recipients of heritage restoration and other awards, while the MPNHA itself was named “Best of State in Heritage Tourism” in 2017.

The MPNHA is committed to continuing its efforts, which have borne tremendous fruit in the communities it covers and greatly enhanced the telling of the tale of the magnificent Mormon colonization of much of the West, long into the future.

Wasatch Academy Student, Sonita Alizadah’s Life Story Is Premiering At The Sundance Film Festival

January 24, 2016

KSL Reporter, Ray Boone

MT. PLEASANT, Sanpete County —

Utah student nearly sold for $9K subject of Sundance documentary Sonita story

Geometry is a language many of us have trouble understanding, but imagine trying to comprehend it when you can’t understand a word the teacher’s speaking.

It was about a year ago that Sonita Alizadah first set foot in America, and began learning the language, mainly though pictures. She likens her experience to being deaf.

“You know, what do you call them?” she asked with a smile. “They speak with their hands.”

wasatch academy picSonita attends Wasatch Academy, a small school in the small town of Mt. Pleasant in central Utah.

Sonita at desk











“I love it!” she said. “Especially Wasatch, because Wasatch is the first real school for me. I have never been in a real school before.”

Sonita came here from Iran, but that country isn’t her home. Her family fled there from Afghanistan when she was a child.

“I don’t have any happy story, except shooting in the night, and a picture of Taliban in my mind,” she said.

Sonita had a cleaning job in Iran, which she likens to child labor.

“Life wasn’t easy because I was a refugee who didn’t have any papers or ID,” she said.

Sundance documentary

Her life in Iran is the subject of a documentary showing at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film bears her name, “Sonita.” One of its central events is when she receives a visit from her mother, who still lives in Afghanistan.

“My family decided to sell me,” Sonita said.

In Afghanistan, forced marriage is common. Sonita says it’s a tradition. Her mother wanted to sell her for $9,000, planning to use the money to buy a bride for Sonita’s brother.

“Forced marriage is like going to death for me,” she said.

Sonita isn’t your typical girl from Afghanistan. In fact, she’s not your typical girl from Iran, either. She’s gained quite a bit of notoriety all on her own through her music. Sonita’s a rapper — she first learned of rap music when she saw Eminem on television.

“I couldn’t understand him, what he was saying, but I realized I can tell something like him,” she said. “I can say my story like him, very fast.”

A Great Honor Paid to Monte Bona, Director of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area

Monte Bona receives the Pioneers in Progress Award
Monte Bona receives the Pioneers in Progress Award

July 30, 2015 12:15 am  • 

MT. PLEASANT—Monte Bona, who has been a member of the Mt. Pleasant City Council for over 20 years, has had many opportunities to pat himself on the back over the years for his many accomplishments.

But Bona is not that way, he prefers to work “under the radar” so to speak and “keep a low profile”.

Most recently Bona received a great honor during the Days of ’47 Pioneers of Progress Awards ceremony in the historic and creative arts category for his vision of preserving historic buildings and taking the “seed” of an idea that later turned Highway 89 into becoming a national area designation. Bona currently serves as Director of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area (MPNHA).

As far back as 1994 the National Trust for Historic Preservation told Bona there was a story to tell about the colonization and architecture along Highway 89 which turned into the Sanpete Heritage Council and later the MPNHA which spans 400 miles within central and southern Utah.

Senator Bob Bennett sponsored the bill and with the help of Representatives Chris Cannon and Jim Matheson, the bill was passed in July 2006 and signed into law by President George W. Bush in October of that year. Others who played key roles in the designation were Wilson Martin, former director of the Utah Division of State History and Brad Shafer, a member of Bennett’s staff. The management plan was approved by the Secretary of the Interior in March 2010.

“The award was given in honor of the Mormon pioneers. There are 49 designation national heritage areas in the U.S. We are the only one named after a people. The Pioneers of Progress Awards go to individuals, not organizations. I agreed to accept the award on behalf of all of our partners in the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area,” said Bona.

Since the designation, Bona has worked with great partners including the Utah Division of State History assisting in the restoration of many historical buildings along the corridor. In Mt. Pleasant alone, because of the fundraising efforts of Wasatch Academy, there have been two buildings restored, the First Presbyterian Church, which is also used as a music conservatory for Wasatch Academy, and Liberal Hall, which was the first home of Wasatch Academy and now a museum.

Along the strip, two Carnegie libraries in Mt. Pleasant and Ephraim; Casino Star Theater, Gunnison; Peterson Dance Hall, Fairview; a historic plaza at Snow College, Ephraim; and a monument of the Quilt Walk, Panguitch; are just a few restoration and developments that have taken place.

Bona has also promoted the area with television productions, the Black Hawk War, and programs, such as Discovery Road, seen on KJZZ and UEN, and most recently a new book edited by him entitled, Legends, Lore & True Tales in Mormon Country. Local writers include Jason Friedman, Steve Clark, Jack Monnett and Shirley Bahlmann. The book is available at Amazon and locally at Skyline Pharmacy, Mt. Pleasant.

Although Bona chose to not seek re-election to the Mt. Pleasant City Council this year, he plans to remain an active participant with the many projects in continuing with the MPNHA.  He is also heavily involved with the Mt. Pleasant Main Street Committee, which serves as the executive committee of the Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA)

In the beginning the assessed evaluation in the CDRA was $6M and is currently set at about $23M. By 2018 when the designation expires, Bona hopes the value will be in the neighborhood of $30M.

Bona has also received awards from the Utah Heritage Foundation, Utah Division of State History Outstanding Contribution and the Regional Recognition Award from Utah’s Six County Association of Governments.

Rhubarb Festival Celebrates Region, Creativity

DATE 05/08/2007 7:15 AM

This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Rhubarb Festival Celebrates Region, Creativity

Rhubarb Festival Celebrates Region, CreativitySanpete County is already well known for its beautiful scenery, wonderful pioneer heritage and historical cities and towns. Now it’s also becoming known as a place with some pretty creative uses for rhubarb, thanks to the annual Sanpitch Rhubarb Festival.

The creative festival, started eight years ago by Winnie Wood and Bob Sorenson, pays homage to the rhubarb and its many uses. Wood and Sorenson, who make wines from fruits and plants from their Mt. Pleasant-based company, Native Wines, use rhubarb in some of their products and thought having a festival in honor of the common garden plant would be fun and a way to build community relations and attract people into the area.

The event was a hit, and now is an annual thematic attraction featuring pie-eating contests, wine-and-cheese tasting, a goat dress up and turkey trot, an ugly truck contest, soap box derby and even crowning someone “Queen of the Rhubarb.” Not to mention all of the foods made from rhubarb. Wood says that the ideas that people having been coming up with have grown over the years. There now is rhubarb ice cream, soda pop, syrup, and even salsa!

This year’s event will be Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Festivities are held at Native Wines, 72 S. 500 West and at Peel Furniture Works, 565 W. Main Street, in Mt. Pleasant.

The celebration begins with the Ugly Truck Contest and Parade at noon. Ugly trucks from all over the region enter the parade, which runs down Mt. Pleasant’s Main Street.

The parade will also include “The Rhubarb Royalty” float. The royalty preside over festival events such as the pie eating and raw rhubarb eating contests.

Native Wines will be open for wine and cheese tasting from noon to 6 p.m. At 3 p.m., judging for the “World’s Best Rhubarb Pie” begins and at 4 p.m. the Rhubarbarian Raw Rhubarb Eating Contest. An awards ceremony for all the day’s contests will be held at 5 p.m. in front of Native Wines.

Peel Furniture Works, which crafts heirloom quality replicas of early Utah pioneer furniture, came on board in recent years as a sponsor, and has added its own special twist to the celebration.

The Peel Furniture Works Rhubarb Extravaganza will include heritage craft demonstrations, contests, and live musical performances from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The furniture company will also be the host for the pie-eating contest and “turkey trot” and “goat dress up” contests during the Rhubarb Festival, as well as the barbeque turkey sandwich luncheon.

In addition to running Native Wines and creating the festival and other unique events, Wood also runs the drama department at Mt. Pleasant’s Wasatch Academy, teaching students the craft and directing productions.

It is a natural fit for Wood, who is a performance artist and award-winning actor, performance artist, producer, choreographer and director. She has been active in Utah’s theater community for years, founding the Dance Theater Coalition 27 years ago, which continues to produce emerging, independent artists.

For more information on the Sanpitch Rhubarb Festival, call Wood at Native Wines, (435) 462-9261, or Dale Peel at (435) 462-2887.

# # #

For more information Contact:

Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502

Canadian Astronaut Visits Sanpete County, Chris Hadfield to meet students, attend ‘Star Party’


This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Canadian Astronaut Visits Sanpete County,
Chris Hadfield to meet students, attend ‘Star Party’

The first Canadian astronaut to float freely in space will visit Sanpete County Oct. 11 and 12. Col. Chris Hadfield, an former space shuttle astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency, will meet with elementary and secondary students, along with the general public, and take part in a “star party.”

Hadfield will be in Utah for The Association of Space Explorer’s 19th Annual Planetary Congress, which is being held Oct. 9-15 in Salt Lake City. The Association is made up of more than 300 astronauts and cosmonauts from 29 nations who meet annually to discuss space flight experiences, technical information concerning space operations, scientific research and training. It’s the first time 10 years that the annual gathering has been held in the United States.

As part of the 19th Congress, astronauts are making visits to various Utah school districts to promote the importance of space research and travel. The group is also meeting with the state’s space industry and government officials.

Mt. Pleasant’s Wasatch Academy is hosting a private dinner for Hadfield Oct. 11, followed by an 8 p.m. “Star Party” at the Garden Bed and Breakfast in Spring City. The star party is open to the general public.

There will also be a space presentation at North Sanpete High School for students in grade six, seven and eight that will include a solid fuel model rocket demonstration, bottle water rocket launching, paper rocket building, paper airplane contests, and other space demonstrations. Students will also get to experience a sack lunch including “Zero-G” astronaut food.

Hadfield, who was raised on a corn farm in southern Ontario, Canada, became interested in flying from a young age. As an Air Cadet, he won a glider pilot scholarship at age 15 and a powered pilot scholarship at age 16. He became the first Canadian to ever leave a spacecraft and float freely in space while serving as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2001. He also served as mission specialist on NASA’s second space shuttle mission to rendezvous with the Russian Space Station Mir.

For more information on his visit, contact Dave Fullmer at (435) 462-3620.

# # #

For more information Contact:

Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502

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