Most of us have a warm home, food to eat and a comfortable bed to sleep in.

Most of us.

But some do not.

In fact, Washington County School District communications director Steve Dunham and high school counselor Teresa Peterson said Wednesday on the Andy Griffin Show that most Washington County residents would be shocked by how many hungry/homeless students there are in our county.

Some sobering facts:

  • Last year Washington County ended the school year with 950 students that were identified as experiencing homelessness at some point during the school year.

  • This year so far there are 763 students who are experiencing homelessness.

  • 69 of those students are unaccompanied by a parent or court appointed guardian.

  • We have around 40% of kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

The good news is help is on the way. The county has been awarded a large financial grant from the State of Utah to build "Teen Centers" to help these at risk young people with basic needs that most of us take for granted.

Five schools in the county -- Pine View High, Dixie High, Snow Canyon High, Hurricane High, and Desert Hills High -- will be constructing Teen Centers next year.

While these Teen Centers will be open to any student who needs support, each of these schools has seen an increase in the number of students experiencing homelessness over the past few years.

These schools have been awarded large grants from the Utah State Legislature ($250,000 each) to complete this project.

Dunham said the Teen Centers will provide:

  • A safe space to do homework after school
  • A food pantry
  • Laundry facilities
  • A clothes closet
  • A mentor available during and after school to help students connect to community resources, homework help and apply for college scholarships and educational grants

Note: Milcreek already provides many of these services without a Teen Center.

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Banned! New Law Makes This Common Christmas Decoration Illegal in Utah

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We love our Christmas lights in the state of Utah. You can't go more than a block or so without finding houses decorated with festive holiday glow and cheer.

But apparently, the Federal Government is not OK with that.

Last year the Department of Energy announced that the United States would be moving away from incandescent light bulbs and moving towards LED lightbulbs -- this was back in April 2022.

The announcement last year gave citizens some time to get their households in order, because the ban didn't officially take place until Aug. 1 of this year.

But now the ban is in full effect.

As of this moment, you cannot be cited for having incandescent lights hanging from your home (that could change). But retailers carrying incandescent lights could face heavy fines and even sanctions.

The Feds are sending the message loud and clear: the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the old-fashioned light strings is now against the law.

In fact, once these lights burn out on your strings at home, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to find any replacements.

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The Oldest City In Utah Is ...

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The old story goes that four men went into a room to decide which was the oldest city in the state of Utah.

There was a man from Ogden, a man from Salt Lake, a man from Provo and a man from Bountiful in the room.

Officials locked the door and waited for a resolution. An hour later, after a lot of noise and ruckus, the men emerged from the room, beaten and battered, one of them beaming with pride. All four agreed Ogden was the oldest town in the state.

"Wow, I didn't expect a consensus," the official exclaimed.

The man from Ogden, obviously less battered than the others, said, "It took awhile, but I got them to see it my way."

The story, although fictional, is based on the idea that people from Ogden are maybe just a bit tougher than the rest of us.

Another Ogden legend is that Al Capone, the famous gangster, took the train to Ogden looking to expand his empire. After 10 minutes on 25th Street of the northern Utah city, Capone supposedly muttered, 'This is too rough of a town for me."

The truth of the matter is this: As a settlement in Utah, Ogden was, in fact, first, because of the founding in 1845 of a small picket enclosure, Fort Buenaventura, on the Weber River by Miles Goodyear, a mountain man working in the northern Utah area.

But as an incorporated town, Salt Lake City actually beat Ogden to the punch. Bountiful and West Jordan were close behind. All of this was around 1846-47.

St. George was founded a decade later, but has since surpassed Ogden and Bountiful in population.

CITYPOPULATION
1Salt Lake City204,657
2West Valley City136,650
3West Jordan116,664
4Provo113,523
5St. George102,519
6Orem95,910
7Sandy93,022
8Ogden86,825
9Lehi84,373
10South Jordan83,513

The founding dates of communities settled in these years which eventually became important population centers are Salt Lake City (1847), Bountiful (1847), Ogden (1848), West Jordan (1848), Kaysville (1849), Provo (1849), Manti (1849), Tooele (1849), Parowan (1851), Brigham City (1851), Nephi (1851), Fillmore (1851), Cedar City (1851), Beaver (1856), Wellsville (1856), Washington (1856) and St. George (1861).

So technically, Salt Lake City was the first real town in Utah.

But don't tell that to a guy from Ogden unless you want a black eye.

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Trader Joe's Won't Say No To St. George (Does That Mean Yes?)

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By far the most asked question when it comes to retail stores and expansion in our ever burgeoning town is: "When are we going to get a Trader Joe's?"

There are some others (Cheesecake Factory, Hobby Lobby, etc.), but the hope that Trader Joe's makes it to Utah's Dixie is foremost in residents' minds, for sure.

First of all, let's clear a couple of things up. There is no hard and fast demographic or population rule with Trader Joe's, despite the claims of some people. Trader Joe's expands where and when it wants. Certainly, the company does its market research and opens new locations where the parent company (Aldi) thinks there's a profit to be made. But there is no specific trend or number that qualifies a city or county of being "worthy" of having a Trader Joe's.

That being said, Trader Joe's does tend to open stores in locations where the population's median income is about $10,000 more than the state's average. However, with their focus on trying to keep product prices low, TJ's does tend to open stores in less expensive parts of expensive places. Does that make sense?

Doing a search on Trader Joe's reveals a lot. Apparently the store is not just a store, but a religious institution. I write that in jest, but it sure seems like it. People don't just love Trader Joe's -- they LOVE Trader Joe's! (all caps, exclamation point, heart emojis, etc).

I ran across articles like "18 Things You Should Know Before You Shop at Trader Joe's," "We went to Trader Joe's and found 7 main reasons why so many people are obsessed with the quirky grocer," and "6 Not-to-Be-Missed Trader Joe’s Items That Just Hit Stores," among hundreds of others.

And many were from legitimate news websites like business.com and kiplinger.com, not just fansites.

The one that really caught my was this one, "Here's Why There's Not a Trader Joe's Where You Live."

The story, on the popular website allrecipes.com, attempts to explain who gets a Trader Joe's and why (or why not?). The brief article, written by Bailey Fink, is a year old, but does give fans of the store some options to try and get the TJ management to take notice. Most notably, there is actually a "Request a Trader Joe's in my City" form to fill out.

The quirky, but popular retailer, with 542 stores nationwide, is mum about possible expansion in Southern Utah. The fit seems perfect: A decent population base (200,000 in the county), heavy tourism activity (TJ's most popular store is in Time's Square), and a decent household median income (about $62,000 and rising).

So, is Trader Joe's coming to St. George?

I can tell you this, in the article "Trader Joe’s Expands in Country’s Hottest Markets," Jennifer Strailey outlines how TJ's is 100 percent committed to the red-hot real estate markets in the United States.

In case you've been in a cave, the hottest state for real estate in the past year has been Utah and the hottest city in the state -- St. George.

I can't give you a timeline, but if that's the biggest criterium for coming here, TJ's will be here soon.

* BTW, I've been to the Orem Trader Joe's many times and love some of their products -- especially their pineapple habanero BBQ sauce and their huge selection of dark chocolate items).

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Utah's Top Google Searches May Surprise You

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In the United States, we love our entertainment and our Google searches in the USA reflect that -- "Matthew Perry," "Dolly Parton," "Taylor Swift," and "Barbie" were among the top Google searches this year.

But what about Google searches originating from ISP addresses in the state of Utah?

Interestingly, Utah seems to have quite an internal good vs. evil struggle taking place. We are tops in the nation for searches like "Jesus," "Sabbath Day" and Food Storage."

But we also make the top 10 lists when it comes to searches like "Naked girls," "Topless," and "Lingerie."

So what gives?

In a Deseret News article, Lee Davidson quotes psychologist Steve Pumphrey, "When you have extreme light, or people trying to do good things, you often also find the opposite in extreme."

Clinician Theresa Martinez expounds more on this: "The forbidden is really tempting. Where you have a culture that is known for family values, morality and apple pie, you will also have curiosity and interest in the forbidden."

It's worth mentioning that Utah, long accused of being a voracious consumer of pornography, is not any worse per capita than any other state. In this article in Public Square Magazine, details are given on how this became a common misconception.

Still, the searches are there and recently Viasat Savings published on its website that "What is catfishing?" is the most commonly searched phrase on Google in our state. (To save you time, catfishing is defined as the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.).

Analyzing our searches can reveal much -- or very little.

For instance, Utahns searched for Pallas Cat more than any other state. These small wild cats are adorably expressive, with short legs, dense grey fur, and round pupils as opposed to the usual vertical line pupils of most small cats.

But that doesn't really mean much, except that pallas cats are cute. (OK, go ahead and Google that one, it's worth it).

Utah also is No. 1 in the nation in the searches "roast beef sandwiches near me," "Lord of the Rings," and "Cheese Fries."

Now that sounds like a fine afternoon.

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Dissipating! Our 'Rainy Day' Funds Are Shrinking

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More and more Americans are having to dip into their "Rainy Day Funds,' or emergency savings with inflation being the biggest culprit.

That's one of the many findings revealed in a study by Fidelity Investments.

In 2023, more than 40 percent of respondents to the poll who admit having to dip into their savings blame the ballooning costs of day-to-day living as the primary reason.

Others blame unexpected expenses, economic uncertainty and lack of self control for the shrinking of our savings accounts.

With the costs of goods like food, gas and clothing up more than 10 percent the last couple of years, inflation is still the top cause for the dwindling nest egg.

But even with the rising costs, many Americans are comically unwilling to make many changes. The survey found that more than 28 percent of people would rather take their chances finding love on a reality show than take their chances on the stock market.

Additionally, 52 percent of people said they'd rather trade humorous internet memes than trade stocks and 45 percent of people would rather take a clean-eating challenge than a no spending challenge for the entire month of January.

Another key finding, and perhaps a reflection on the state of the economy right now, only about one-fourth of people said they have plans (or the ability) to rebuild that emergency savings account.

It's not all grim news, however. Fidelity did report that almost three out of every four people in the survey believe they'll be better off financially next year, and that number jumps to nearly 80 percent when you consider the younger respondents, Gen Z'ers and Millennials.

National estimates say about one on five Americans have zero money in savings right now.

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Tripadvisor Says These Are The Top 12 Things To Do In St. George -- Have You Done Them?

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Like most of you, I used to visit St. George every weekend before I went ahead and moved to this beautiful place.

Of course, that was 30 years ago and St. George has changed a lot since my days as just a Dixie tourist. However, being lucky enough to live here, I have tried to enjoy what St. George and Washington County have to offer.

Recently, travel site extraordinaire Tripadvisor.com came out with the definitive list must-do activities in our area. So, as residents, are we partaking of these cool activities? Here's how I did.

  1. Red Hills Garden -- I've been there a few times, and it's beautiful, especially this time of year with the Christmas lights in full holiday mode.
  2. St. George Temple and visitor's center -- Yep, been there. This is a piece of history and a special religious spot for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
  3. Pioneer Park -- Been there. Great park, especially if it's cooler outside. Although it's been years.
  4. Brigham Young Winter Home Historical Site -- Been there. More history. Remember, a lot of theses pioneers lived here before air conditioning was invented.
  5. Thunder Junction All Abilities Park -- Went there recently, a fun place for kids of all ages.
  6. St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm -- Been there a few times. Gotta love the respect for the history of our world.
  7. Jacob Hamlin Home -- One of the first places I ever visited down here. The Hamblin home has been restored and is a realistic glimpse into our ancestors here in the Southern Utah.
  8. Kayenta -- It's a planned community, but also features shops and a surprisingly impressive live theater. Catch a show here, although make sure to check the age recommendations first.
  9. St. George Tabernacle -- Great piece of history and a great place to start your walking tour of St. George.
  10. Red Cliffs National Conservation Area -- Dinosaur prints, Candy Cliffs, soaring views. Definitely worth the effort.
  11. Historic Town Square Park -- Downtown St. George used to be, well, kind of boring, especially for kids. But not anymore with flowing water, plenty of shops and even a carousel.
  12. Coyote Gulch Art Village -- I thought they had with this one, because I wasn't sure I'd been here. But after reading up on it, I believe they're just referring to the shops by Kayenta. Either way, it's fun to see.

So how did you do? Have you been to all 12?

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St. George Business Kicking It Up A Notch

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Farmstead Bakery is wildly popular in St. George, with offerings from traditional bakery fare (think pastries and donuts) to cafe-style sandwiches, hot drinks and even pizza.

And now owner Chris Connors wants people to know how grateful he is for their support. And that he is kicking it up a notch.

Check out this press release:

"Farmstead Bakery is thrilled to announce a significant milestone in its journey toward expansion. With the recent purchase of a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in Leeds, Farmstead Bakery is poised for a remarkable evolution in its operations and reach.

“For about two years now, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to expand, turning down numerous offers in pursuit of the right path forward,” said Li Hsun Sun, COO “Our aim has always been to grow smartly and sustainably, and this acquisition marks a pivotal step towards that goal.”

This strategic move represents a substantial upgrade from the current 1,000 square foot kitchen to a facility capable of supplying 4-5 Farmstead locations. Nestled in Leeds, known for its abundant natural spring water — a crucial element in baking — Farmstead Bakery is poised to harness this resource to create our signature delicious baked goods on a larger scale.

Moreover, this expansion positions Farmstead Bakery as a significant employer in Leeds, with plans to hire 25-30 dedicated individuals at this warehouse facility. Leeds’ strategic location between thriving areas like Washington and St. George, primes Farmstead Bakery for continued growth and future expansion opportunities.

The new baking home, slated for completion by March/April 2024, signifies a transformative phase in Farmstead’s journey. While the warehouse will not be open to the public, expect exciting “coming soon” signs hinting at the brand’s continued growth and presence.

In tandem with this expansion, Farmstead Bakery will introduce FS COFFEE CO., poised to become the premier coffee shop in St. George located on Tabernacle and Main in the heart of downtown. Not only will it offer exceptional roasted coffee for future Farmstead locations, but it will also boast an array of diverse pastries, breakfast items, sandwiches, and Mediterranean-inspired salads.

“We are actively seeking exceptional individuals to join us on this exciting journey,” noted Chris Connors, CEO. Offering competitive starting wages of $21 per hour, full-time roles, and comprehensive health, dental, and vision benefits, Farmstead Bakery values work ethic, coachability, and good character in its team members.

For employment opportunities and further inquiries, please visit www.farmsteadbakery.com  or info@farmsteadbakery.com"

Reading between the lines, that seems to imply that there are several future locations of Farmstead Bakery on the horizon.

That's good for everyone (except my waistline LOL).

Note -- Connors has converted Kairos, another one of his properties, into Winter Wonderland for the holidays.

Winter Wonderland sells hot drinks, pastries, cookies and Christmas souvenirs and is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. through New Year's. It is located in the old Kairos location just off the roundabout on Tabernacle in downtown St. George.

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