HILDALE, Utah — This small community on the Utah-Arizona border wants to show the state and the world it is not what it used to be.
The city is creating a new “brand” for Hildale to be used as a municipal logo and a tourism initiative. There are also plans for a welcome sign at the city limits and a welcome center to draw in people who might otherwise drive by.
“There’s some things we want, to show there’s been a lot of changes in the last couple of years and especially over the last couple of decades,” said Hildale City Councilman Jared Nicol. “We kind of have a label with certain parts of our town and our community. Even though that is part of our history, that’s not what they could expect if they drove into town right now.”
Hildale has been known as the stronghold of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, run by imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. The town has long faced scrutiny over the church’s influence on all manners of life in the community and the abuses of children.
Once viewed as a cloistered community where women and girls in prairie dresses would hide and refuse to engage with outsiders, the new Hildale is opening up. Ex-members of the church and even non-members have moved into town and shaken things up by opening new businesses (neighboring Colorado City even opened its first bar last year). The FLDS-dominated city council was ousted in Hildale’s elections and replaced with a more secular body and the community’s first-ever woman mayor.
Community leaders are now focusing on bridging divides with an eye toward economic development and tourism. Council agendas have been stuffed with discussions about infrastructure improvements and new ideas.
“We are looking to bring businesses here and the rebranding has a lot to do with that,” said Mariah LaCorti, Hildale’s economic development coordinator. “So they know who we are now, rather than who we used to be.”
It does not mean Hildale is rejecting its polygamous roots. LaCorti told FOX 13 they want to “embrace the past, but look past it and look towards the future.”
The Utah Office of Tourism, which runs the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry, is fully supportive. Staffers have traveled to Hildale to offer input and resources. LaCorti said they didn’t have to really ask for help, the governor’s office was already reaching out.
“Hildale has a lot to offer,” said Jay Kinghorn, the associate managing director of Utah’s Office of Tourism. “We want to help them as they begin to develop their tourism economy.”
Councilman Nicol said Hildale is in the backyard of Zion National Park. He would also like to see them showcase the community’s spectacular red rock cliffs and open spaces to recreate.
“There’s a lot of Airbnb’s and different camping and glamping sites that are going up,” he said. “There are hotels that are busy during the peak season. We know that we are able to draw people in. We are just hoping to do more so with the branding campaign.”
The new brand for Hildale is still a work in progress, but LaCorti said it is expected to be ready in the not-too-distant future.
“We’d like to open our doors up and invite hard-working people that are dedicated to their community to live here and invite tourists to come and enjoy the beautiful area we have,” she said.