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Taylorsville Journal

New Fall Festival treats kids of all ages to free pumpkins, animal petting and a glimpse of days gone by

Oct 12, 2023 02:54PM ● By Carl Fauver

City Councilman Curt Cochran, Councilwoman Meredith Harker, Historic Preservation Committee Chair Susan Yadeskie and Mayor Kristie Overson (L-R) unveil the new National Register of Historic Places plaque outside the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center to kick off the first-ever Taylorsville Fall Festival. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

It’s not every day you see Taylorsville City Councilwoman Meredith Harker offering country line dance lessons… Councilman Curt Cochran helping kids pluck their perfect pick from a pumpkin patch… and Mayor Kristie Overson hobnobbing with the Days of ’47 Queen.

But all of that – along with goats, rabbits, chickens and sheep – were on display at the first-ever Taylorsville Fall Festival, held appropriately on the first official day of autumn, Sept. 23.

“The Taylorsville Historic Preservation Committee has been planning this day for months – since last winter,” Harker said while taking a brief break from her dance instructor duties. “We have 25 to 30 volunteers helping out. Our committee members are here, along with the Taylorsville Youth Council. We’ve put in a lot of work and it looks like people are having fun.”

If there was a primary purpose to this first Fall Festival, it was to unveil the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center’s official plaque, detailing the site’s recent inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The plaque refers to the site as the “John and Jeanette Gerrard House” (1488 W. 4800 South). 

Indeed, the Gerrards had the Victorian home built for them in 1906. But it was only a dozen years later when they sold their farmhouse to the Jones family. That transaction eventually led to the venerable Jones Dairy – the name most Taylorsville “old timers” still associate with the site.

Historic Preservation Committee Chair Susan Yadeskie opened the ceremonial portion of the Fall Festival.

“Our committee loves Taylorsville and we love all of you,” she said. “We organized this special day because we want to reach out to as many people as possible – to share this wonderful place with all of you. This site has so much to see and do. We want everyone to visit us, to learn more about our past.”

Moments later, Overson stepped to the microphone. She fought back tears of joy as she recalled her childhood growing up in the area.

“This really tugs at my heart,” she began. “I remember the Gerrards. I took piano lessons from Mildred – we called her “Grandma” – Gerrard. I especially loved dime day. If I played well enough, she gave me a dime. Taylorsville City incorporated 27 years ago. But our Taylorsville community took root many generations before that. Our Historic Preservation Committee does an amazing job keeping those memories alive – and preserving them, as we look to the future.”

Taylorsville City purchased the 2.5-acre Jones Dairy site just six years after incorporating, in 2002. The city provides an annual budget for Heritage Center upkeep and also assists the Historic Preservation Committee in securing outside grant funding.

As it turns out, maintaining a 117-year-old home – and several other historic buildings that have been added to the site – does not come cheap. 

“We recently had four brick chimneys repaired on the home and put a new roof on the old dairy store (next door),” Yadeskie said. “There are always new repair needs. But we committee members also do a lot of work ourselves.”

In preparing for their Fall Festival, Yadeskie cleared weeds and old sod in a large area to lay in a patio, fashioned out of antique, “leftover” bricks. She and others were also up to their eyeballs in paint – white on several buildings and “John Deere green” on fences.

Wendy Cochran is one of Yadeskie’s active Historic Preservation Committee members. Her husband, City Councilman Curt Cochran, says that makes him a member as well. They were put in charge of bringing life back to a long-overlooked patch of dirt outside the large Heritage Center barn.

“The Wednesday after Mother’s Day (May 17) we planted 72 pumpkin plants and we now have about 300 pumpkins in the patch,” Wendy Cochran said. “We came over here two or three times a week to water the plants and pull weeds. This space had not been used to grow anything for years. It’s been a labor of love.”

As a reward for their four months of work, Curt Cochran got to wander the patch with child after child, helping each one select their “perfect pumpkin.” After that, the kids were on their own to choose which colors they wanted to paint them.

Among those visiting the pumpkin patch were Days of ’47 Queen Katie Ann Powell of Sandy and one of her attendants, Kianna Behunin of Riverton. They shared a couple of songs with the Fall Festival audience.

Taylorsville resident Emily Keithley and her boyfriend, Josh Chadwick, were also a big hit at the event. Actually, to be more accurate, their animals were the stars. The Historic Preservation Committee has allowed Keithley to keep animals in a portion of the Heritage Center barn for five years, free of charge. She has two goats and two sheep in there now.

“I think it’s really cool they let me have the animals here,” Keithley said. “I live in an apartment – so I couldn’t keep them there. I come every day to feed them – and clean out their pens every 2 or 3 weeks. I don’t have to pay for the area as long as I am OK with kids visiting and petting the animals. I think it’s great.” 

The only person spotted wearing a period costume at the Fall Festival was Traci Jones, dressed as an early 1900s schoolmarm (yep, it’s one word – thanks Google).

“I’m on the Historic Preservation Committee and we also own the property next door (3/4 of an acre, immediately to the east),” Jones said. “We purchased our property the same year (2002) the city bought this Jones Dairy property. We keep an eye on it. We have a little trouble with kids hopping the fence and vandalizing things – but not often.”

Ironically, Jones is not related to the Jones Dairy family. 

In the midst of everything else, visitors also received free popcorn, lemonade and even an official, 58-page “Taylorsville Fall Festival Cookbook.” Oh, and a few visitors joined in on the pumpkin pie eating contest.

“We tried to include something for everyone at the Fall Festival, so parents and kids would all enjoy themselves,” Yadeskie concluded. “Our Historic Preservation Committee organized this first one so we could do something special for the National Register of Historic Places designation. But now we hope and plan to make this an annual event.”

Sounds like another 4-month pumpkin growing hitch for the Cochrans – and more line dance steps for Harker to memorize. λ

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