The first time I heard about the Colorado City Music Festival was in the spring of 2016. A friend of mine was searching for volunteers to join her in helping to promote and organize the ground-breaking event. I was immediately interested; how could I not be? While I had lived in the Crick on and off as a child, I had only been back in town for about a year and a half. My parents had assured me that it had changed in the time we were gone. Kids don’t throw rocks anymore! They told me.
Being a stubborn and immature middle schooler though, all I saw when we moved back was a dull, boorish hellscape. By early 2016 I had started to settle in, but I was still pessimistic and cynical about my hometown. In some ways I wasn’t wrong about Short Creek. It was boring, it was bland, some people were uneducated, some people were prejudiced– on the surface, at least. I thought I had a good reason for resenting my parents when they moved me back to such a strange place. My mom often reminded me that teenagers would call any city anywhere “boring.” In the coming years I learned what she meant. My resentment fell away when I began to realize why she and my Dad just had to move back. She tried to explain the phenomena that we had come home to participate in, but of course, I had to figure it out for myself.
Becoming involved in the festival was the first breaking point I reached in coming to understand and accept this town. For the first time I found myself excited. I realized it had been a while since my last emo, sarcastic comment. While I would admit that my parents were right in saying that FLDS kids didn’t throw rocks at apostates and gentiles anymore, the festival helped me realize that change was still happening. I looked around and noticed things for what they were. New stores and restaurants meant that the economy was starting to change. Ugly unfinished houses being moved into meant families committing to beautifying them as soon as they could. Talking about the good and the bad parts of the FLDS in an amount that seemed incessant to me at first meant that people were healing. The Independence Day celebration meant that my parents could still have fond memories of their childhood without the baggage. A festival founded by an “outer-towner” from Georgia meant that other people were inspired by the unfinished story of my home… Why couldn’t I be, too?
What is more exciting than a renaissance? What is more stimulating than finding harmony between the past and the present? What is more vibrant and lively than the rebirthing of an entire community, of thousands of humans regaining their sense of celebration, ambition, and hope? How was I ever bored by change?
I didn’t understand when I was younger. Maturity has taught me that anything worth seeing must be sought out. These days I am more grateful than I thought possible to be a “Cricker.” To experience a transformation of this magnitude, while sometimes subtle and painful, is truly a gift. The Colorado City Music Festival isn’t what created the healing energy that is changing my town and my people… but it is a beautiful celebration of everything that the people of Short Creek are striving for. It is the epitome of things we suffered without for many years: of music, of diversity, of commerce, of FUN!
Arya S. Hammon is a high school student and young woman local to the Short Creek area. Arya is a member of the Colorado City Music Festival Street Team and was an intern reporter at Canaan Mountain Herald during the fall semester of 2018. While she was never a member of the FLDS, she is no outsider-looking-in, having been born and mostly raised in Colorado City as well as possessing a strong intuitive understanding of people and their peopleness.