I haven’t met everyone in Wayne County, Utah. Not yet. But my project as Entrada Institute’s 2010 Artist-in-residence has given me plenty of reasons to introduce myself around the territory. So far, I have photographed a slice of life that includes veterans saluting the fallen at local cemeteries, high school students cleaning up after the monthly senior center luncheon, and a parade of aliens. The common factor is that none of these things would happen without the contributions of many volunteers behind the scenes.
Wayne County is one of Utah’s smallest in population — about 2,600 residents (less than 0.1% of the state population), spread out mostly along 65 miles of UT24 between Loa and Hanksville. That’s a lot of territory to cover, and the tax base can’t support things like a full time fire department that urban dwellers take for granted. Instead, the needs get filled by volunteers, like last weekend when the Teasdale volunteer fire department raised money with a dutch-oven dinner for 300.
Some people organize events to boos the area’s tourist-based economy, like the Capitol Reef Classic bicycle races, which drew almost 200 competitors. Others show up to decorate parade floats, choreograph the finale of the Miss Apple Days pageant, pour pancake batter at the Boy Scout community breakfast. I know of one elderly couple (unphotographed as yet) who clean up trash along the main highway each day they walk to the Post Office.
I met a woman who put an ad in the local weekly to see if anyone was interested in playing adult women’s softball. She was shocked when 80 women signed up. Now the the high school boys baseball team is umpiring three games a week.
The county fair is coming up and I have many more people to photograph before I finish this project in the fall. The hardest part will be that I can’t document everyone’s contributions in one summer. Like the folks that I’m meeting I’m doing what I can. I f you know a Wayne County volunteer, give them a thank you in the comments and I’ll try to include them in the project.