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SMOGGY FEBRUARY

Friday, 12 February 2016

by Staff, Spaulding Law

Here it is, mid-February, and it’s freezing outside. The inversion is trapping cold to the earth like a wet blanket traps a fire and it’s hard to breathe the thick air, much less imagine the coming spring weather and the sunshine of April. The one fully--take it to the bank--positive thing about February is Valentine’s Day. Who doesn’t remember Valentine’s Day cards at school—or the little heart-shaped candies with cute phrases like “Be Mine” or “Love” or “Truly Yours” with the pitter-patter of hearts, young and old, as children of all ages hope someone, anyone, will ask to be their Valentine. Way back in memory’s recesses, February stood for something other than cold and smog and damp depressing darkness. It stood for love and warmth and exciting hope.

Fortunately for February there is a Valentine’s Day but notwithstanding that, it is sometimes hard to see and feel joy in the Februarys of Utah. Unfortunately, it is far easier to see more mundane things in February such as laws and budgets, and discussions of school funding, road funding, and policies that will shape society for long after the last 10-year old boy hopefully hands a Valentine’s Day card to that cute girl in his fourth-grade class. That is because, for those who care, February is the heart of the annual Utah legislative session, which begins on the fourth Monday in January. Starting that day, the Utah legislature is “in Session” for 45 consecutive days, or through the entire month of February.

In recent memory, the only year the Utah legislature was not in Session during the entire month of February was in 2002, when the Utah legislature took an unprecedented official recess during the entire 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games. You could say that during that February, all of Utah hit the pause button to celebrate and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime February experience. And it truly was such an experience.

In a traditionally inversion-laden February, when so many are stuck in the winter rut between Christmas and Springtime, and when for many, there is not much of love, attention or romance, folks would do well to remember the days and weeks leading up to those 2002 Winter Olympic Games, when Utah’s star shined brightly before the world as never before.

During that winter of 2002, immediately prior to the lighting of the Olympic torch at Rice-Eccles stadium, Utah had very little snow and was mired in an un-customarily long and dirty inversion. Olympic organizers, particularly those with “image” on their minds, were justifiably worried. Many hoped, prayed, and held their collective breath to see how Utah would be received by not just a nation, but also a watching, curious world.

Among other preparation-related activities, what was hoped and prayed for was a literal miracle--a snowstorm to deliver fresh air and deep, clean, new snow on the rugged, but relatively unknown, Wasatch-range. The entire world tuned in, many for the first time ever, to see all that Salt Lake City and Utah had to offer. Actually, it was a huge financial and cultural gamble—hosting the Winter Olympic Games-- and joyous it was when, on the very eve before the lighting of the Olympic torch, Utah was blanketed with a magnificent winter snow, which scoured the valleys of smog and left a scene so pristine that it sparkled—rivalling a fresh Christmas morning. It was indeed a miracle in February of 2002, as the skies above opened on the mountains and valleys, on the people, the community and on all who watched both here and throughout the world, as Utah welcomed--everyone.

And ring out Utah did as Salt Lake became a stunning city in the Rockies—the Olympic rings were on fire nightly on the Eastern hills, and downtown high-rises were draped with images of athletes carving slopes, cutting figures on rinks of ice, and catapulting along the city skyline in the winter night air. It was picturesque, wholesome, refreshing, and spectacular all at once and became a tribute, not just to the planners and workers of this community and State, but to the history and the essence of Utahns--who they are and what they represent. It wasn’t just a proud time in our history—it was a button-busting experience every single day for every resident. It changed Utah and it changed the world to a lesser extent. After that Olympic experience, all of Utah knew that everyone, everywhere understood the secret that only a relative few really had known prior to that February fortnight—that Utah not only has what some might call the Greatest-Snow on Earth, but also the greatest people on the planet. It was truly a world-class, once-in-a lifetime experience for all, particularly for a normally dreary and smoggy February.

All of this month it is February along the Wasatch Front and it’s smoggy and cold outside. However, today, here’s to Utah, Utah’s rich and miraculous history, refreshing snowstorms, and, well, love for everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day and happy memories, to all with young hearts, the young and the old alike.

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