Looking Back at a Shift of Focus

Authored by: Rich Csenge

Festival News

Published On: Wednesday, 4/26/2023

In 2007, when the 1st annual Amazing Earthfest was held in Kanab, an untapped economic opportunity was just beginning to come into focus. Back then, outside of the well-established river rafting companies, Kanab had just a few small enterprises catering to visitors seeking recreation and renewal in the immense open spaces that distinguish southern Utah and the Arizona Strip from other parts of the American Southwest. 

New national monuments such as Grand Staircase-Escalante, Vermilion Cliffs, and Grand Canyon Parashant were just being established, while rural communities had only recently suffered losses in revenue and employment from traditional extractive industries. At that time, nearby national parks and Lake Powell were already prime destinations, but the ‘gateway’ communities between them had not yet awakened to the full economic potential emerging from a rapidly rising public interest in outdoor recreation.  

The inspiration for an annual festival celebrating America’s National and State Parks, Forests and Monuments pointed to a new emphasis in developing dependable local economic vitality for rural Utah. And the City of Kanab was well endowed, with no less than 17 such destinations within a half-day’s drive! The notion of Kanab as a ‘hub’ for people from across the nation and indeed, the world, visiting these majestic destinations in nature was starting to be recognized.

In the ensuing years, the Utah Office of Tourism, along with others at the county level, have helped build new and thriving economic engines that today are propelling once small, even struggling pioneer communities to embrace the benefits that large surrounding areas of protected public lands make possible. The restoration of spirit, recreation and renewal that natural, landscape scale parks and monuments afford is increasingly seen as essential to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. 

So too, is it now more widely understood that these units of America’s Public Estate also provide critical ecosystem services for the inhabitants of a planet whose climate is steadily warming, portending change, adaptation, and a wide ranging shift in how humanity views the natural world around us. 

Beginning on Mother’s Day, people from around the nation attending Southern Utah’s 17th annual Amazing Earthfest 2023 will again, here in Kanab, celebrate the magnificent splendor of our nation’s parks, forests, monuments and public lands. They’ll choose from thirty-seven different experiential learning events taking place in and around the city during the week of May 14-20, and out on our public lands; each one designed to enhance our appreciation for the wonderful complexity and life sustaining natural forces that provide for our existence, and deserve our loving care. 

The 501c3 nonprofit Amazing Earthfest is based in Kanab, Utah. Most events are free, except where noted. Here’s where to learn more: https://amazingearthfest.org/events/upcoming. Hope to see you there!