When telling friends and contacts that we were headed to Utah for a summer vacation, I heard it all. The most common question was “why?” followed closely by cracks about polygamy. Looks of surprise, at best, followed my explanation of the interest in rest and relaxation in and around a mountain resort town.
Utah has an image problem, as do most places in the U.S. We revert to stereotypes when thinking about cities and states where we have never been. Exhibit A is, of course, Detroit. We even heard that in Utah.
One evening in Park City, we got the “where are you from?” question from a couple of locals. When we responded, “near Detroit” to “what part of Michigan?” we got a look from one half of the couple that resembled what we might expected if she had taken a bite of something sour. She said “that city has gone to pot.”
We wondered how she knows what she thinks she knows about Detroit. She admitted it was because of a documentary she watched at Park City’s Sundance Flim Festival. She said she couldn’t get over “that train station.” When we explained that the crumbling, vacant old Michigan Central Depot was privately owned, she was surprised, then listened to our stories on what’s really going on in Detroit, besides whatever she saw in the film.
Now, with the tools available to us online, particularly with forums like this and social media, we have the opportunity to incrementally shape perception of places within our country. But it takes a proactive approach. So, I’ll take the lead and tell you a little about what I experienced in Utah:
Beautiful scenery, with mountains in every direction (as seen in this blog post’s accompanying photo courtesy of MCP Actions). The best Mexican food I’ve ever had (seriously). Some of the best whiskey I’ve ever tasted (in moderation). First-class resorts. Locally-caught trout cooked to perfection. In-N-Out Burger. A cool college campus built into a hill, overlooking a large city. A light rail system that easily moves tourists around a downtown.
Yes, I’m saying nice things about Utah. Just like wherever you live, it’s misunderstood by those who have never been.