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Taylorsville Journal

Night Out Against Crime ties in with the city’s Starry Nights @ the Plaza to entertain and educate

Sep 08, 2022 02:09PM ● By Carl Fauver

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

The successful summer series of Saturday night activities outside Taylorsville City Hall finally wrapped up last weekend (Aug. 27), when city officials and sculpture artists from several states unveiled pieces of art throughout Centennial Plaza. You may recall, six art pieces were displayed throughout the plaza a year ago, as the city launched its Plaza +ART program. This time around, 14 new pieces of art were unveiled.

“I hope it doesn’t stop there; I’d love designated places for 20 or more art pieces next year.”

Those optimistic comments are from Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson’s Executive Assistant Jen Andrus, who coordinated Starry Nights @ the Plaza activities.

“Only four of the six art pieces we put on display just after Centennial Plaza construction was completed last year remained in place all year,” Andrus explained. “One of the six pieces broke and another was sold earlier this summer. We installed similar ‘replacement’ art pieces, each made by the artists whose pieces were being replaced.”

The Aug. 27 art unveiling event – along with a free showing of the superhero movie “Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings” – proved to be a fitting conclusion to Taylorsville City’s second food truck season. The first was in 2019. COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 season, while lingering Centennial Plaza construction wiped out last year.

One of the more successful Starry Nights @ the Plaza came three weeks before the art unveiling, courtesy of the city’s volunteer Public Safety Committee. They hosted their Night Out Against Crime on a Saturday night, for the first time ever.

“We broke away from the official, national Night Out Against Crime a few years ago,” Safety Committee Chairman Tony Henderson explained. “Nationally, it is designated as the first Tuesday in August. But with all the different Salt Lake Valley cities trying to do it on the same night, it was hard to book things like the climbing wall or a medical response helicopter. So, we shifted to a different weeknight close to the first Tuesday. But this was our first time to host it on Saturday night. It just seemed like a no-brainer to tie in with Starry Nights @ the Plaza. 

Just a few hours before Night Out Against Crime was to begin, Taylorsville was hit with one of the hardest August rainstorms anyone could remember. Public Safety Committee member Lynette Wendel says they were concerned – but Mother Nature cooperated just in time.  

“Just before the event started, we had such a beautiful rainbow,” Wendel said. “I think the rain did cut into our crowd a bit. But that made it more pleasant and leisurely for those who did come out. There were no long lines. So much information was shared. I mean, with the food trucks and music…come on… it was just a great event.”

The Taylorsville Police K9 Unit offered a police dog demonstration. The climbing wall, traditionally provided by the Utah National Guard, was once again a big hit. And several kids participated in the “bike rodeo.”

“The obstacle course was not just for bikes; kids brought scooters, skateboards, lots of things on wheels,” Public Safety Committee Co-Chair Janice Fields added. “The Taylorsville Youth Council operated the course and did such a great job. This was our first Night Out Against Crime since 2019 (pre-coronavirus). It was also our first on a Saturday. I definitely hope we can tie in again with Starry Nights @ the Plaza again next year. It worked out great – even if the weather did cause us a little anxiety.”

Another of the Night Out Against Crime highlights came when the Mountain Star AirLife helicopter made a dramatic event entrance, flying in and landing on the lawn in front of the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center. As soon as the rotor blades stopped, attendees raced up for a closer look.

“Some group was having a private event inside the (MVPAC),” Wendel said. "I don’t think they had any plans to join our Night Out Against Crime. But several of them ran out to see the helicopter also. It was fun.”

Following their successful early August event, the Taylorsville Public Safety Committee will be back in action Sept. 10, when they host an informational booth at the Bennion Neighborhood Fair. That event will run from 9 a.m. to noon at 3045 W. Bernina (about 5900 South). There they hope to generate interest in strengthening a Neighborhood Watch group in the area. The public is invited to the event – on the Saturday after Labor Day weekend – for food, games, music and several information booths.

As for the immediate future of Taylorsville City’s Centennial Plaza, Jen Andrus says more is coming this fall and winter, although several specifics have not yet been ironed out. The next big public event in the plaza is expected to arrive just before Halloween.

“We are 90% sure we will host a trunk-or-treat candy giveaway in Centennial Plaza,” Andrus added. “But we aren’t yet sure whether it will be on Saturday Oct. 22 or the 29. If we hold it on that day closer to Halloween, we want to be sure we aren’t conflicting with other, long-established trunk-or-treat events in the community.”

Later still in the year – sometime after we’ve gorged on Thanksgiving food and football – city officials also plan to host a holiday tree lighting event. But there again, Andrus says several details still need to be finalized.

“For starters, we have to decide whether we’re going to decorate only our existing trees and buildings with holiday lights or if we are going to bring in a big evergreen tree, similar to the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree,” Andrus said. “Of course, it won’t be as big as that, but we could do something on a smaller scale. We need to have a couple of meetings to make those decisions.”

To help fund trunk-or-treat, the holiday lighting ceremony and next year’s Starry Nights @ the Plaza, Andrus recently secured a $22,000 state grant from the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement. She says it won’t cover all their costs for a year’s worth of activities – but will assist greatly.

For starters, it might make booking live bands to perform in the Centennial Plaza outdoor amphitheater easier.

“We had no budget for the many bands that performed this summer during our Starry Nights @ the Plaza series,” Andrus confessed. “We gave them food vouchers – that’s it. And I know at least some of them played so long, they missed their meals. I just had to beg and plead a little. I explained to them it was our first year. And I promised, if we could get a budget for next year, they would be the first bands we invited back – to perform AND get paid for it.”

Starry Nights @ the Plaza 2023 is expected to launch, as this year’s first edition did, a couple of weeks before Memorial Day. The only Saturday night they skip, through the end of August, is the final night of Taylorsville Dayzz.

Andrus adds, next year’s edition might include a farmers’ market on at least some of the nights. They’d also like to add in some lawn games such as cornhole and ladder ball. And next year’s free movie count is likely to jump from five to six of the 15 Saturday night events.

Oh, and PAID bands are expected each of the Saturday nights next year.

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