The Anatomy of George

How history inspired this event icon:

The original 2014 concept sketch for George, the
icon of southern Utah’s first Friday event, Georgefest.

Did you know that the Georgefest icon was created with southern Utah history in mind?

That’s right, the BOWLER HAT is inspired by the many settlers arriving in the region during the late 1800s. Then considered the cowboy hat of the West, the bowler was particularly popular for its ability to fit snugly for those traveling by horseback, wagon, or train.

The BOW TIE represents the honor and pride exhibited by settlers who often dressed in their Sunday best when working to establish both the economy and industry of St. George City, a municipality established Jan. 17, 1862.

Thomas Judd’s unruly mustache
inspired the crooked image in the logo.

The George MUSTACHE derives from the iconic and unruly mustache worn by an industrious entrepreneur and southern Utah settler from Birkshire, England: Thomas Judd. Thomas was founder of Judd’s Store still located on Tabernacle Street at Historic Downtown St. George.

Event creator Melynda Thorpe was producing a documentary film about the history of southern Utah at the time she began designing Georgefest. With so much beauty, and so many types of activities to enjoy during the daytime, southern Utah was known for lacking in the area of consistent nightlife, so Thorpe accepted the challenge by members of the Historic Downtown Merchants group to design a nighttime community event.

“I was impressed to learn how early settlers would gather at the center of town to sing and dance and enjoy food together in the evenings,” she said. “I felt a strong inclination that if we returned to a similar type of community gathering, we might just discover something special about ourselves.”

This photo depicting a group of well-dressed workers
on the foundation walls of Dixie Academy caught the
attention of Georgefest founder Melynda Thorpe as
she was developing plans for the first Friday the event.

Inspired by photo found in the archives of local photographer and historian Lynn Clark, Thorpe drew a concept sketch that would serve as the simple beginnings of Georgefest. Today, the first Friday nightlife event that has grown to accommodate thousands of participants each month between 6 p.m. and midnight at Historic Downtown St. George. And after 24 consecutive events, Thorpe claims the magic of Georgefest is found in its ties to community history, and its dedication to providing the community an opportunity and reason to gather one night each month “to celebrate who we are,” she said.

Why is the event called Georgefest? Thorpe said it is a given. Local legend credits the town’s name to Mormon apostle George Albert Smith. During the community’s settlement at the direction of Mormon prophet Brigham Young, Smith urged the community to eat raw, unpeeled potatoes to cure scurvy and was thus dubbed “the potato saint.”

“George was our local saint,” Thorpe said. “He brings out the best in all of us!”

Attend a Georgefest at St. George City’s Historic Downtown, and you are likely to see a bowler hat or two as event attendees regularly enjoy dressing up as the lovable George. He’s the event icon that has become somewhat of a mascot of the community. (Play video below.)

For more information about Georgefest, visit the event website.