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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2022 Abstracts

“Secede and Come to Dixie”: The “Secessions” and “Spirit” of Utah’s Dixie, 1987–1990

Presenter: Makoto Hunter
Authors: P. Hunter
Faculty Advisor: Rebecca DeSchweinitz
Institution: Brigham Young University

In 1987, the St. George Chamber of Commerce, city of St. George, Dixie College, and Washington County School District collaborated to organize a two-day fair as a mutual community building event and fundraiser. Lon Henderson, a newcomer to St. George affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce, led the planning andproposed Confederate “Secession” as a theme, playing on the regional nickname: Utah’s Dixie. Representatives from each organization together formed a “Dixie Secession Committee” chaired by Henderson, and they went all in on Confederate themes. A “storming of the legislature” featured St. George resident Alan Cook dress up asGone with the Windcharacter Rhett Butler and lead a mock invasion of the Utah State Capitol to read a Secession declaration. At a southern auction, community members “sold” themselves as “slaves.” Governor Norman Bangerter even declared Dixie “officially” seceded for the day. In a twist ironic to modern perceptions, Henderson pitched the “Secession” as an intentionally “inclusive” project. In his words, “unless you were born there... you would never really be accepted in the city.” Native-born descendants of pioneers formed the core of St. George and saw newcomers like Henderson as interlopers. Henderson believed a Confederate-themed Dixie event could be more inclusive for newcomers—White newcomers, that is, since the Confederate aesthetic excluded people of color. The committee hoped to make the “Secession” annual, and in lights of the event’s success in 1987, they repeated it in 1980. However, they did not repeat the event in 1989, and in 1990, the group instead put on a “Spirit of Dixie” celebration series, shedding the Confederate “Secession” theme though retaining the “southern ball” as an event. However, the Spirit of Dixie ended up a financial loss. Losing steam, the now-Spirit of Dixie Committee did not hold another “Secession” or Spirit of Dixie event.