For lifelong residents Jeff Hutchins and Kenna Aagard, the offer to co-chair the Grantsville Sociable was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“In my family, the Sociable is a big deal,” Hutchins said. “When we got asked to be the chairs, you really can’t say no.”
The Sociable is more than just a treasured annual event for Hutchins, since his first date he had with his wife, Krista, was to the community event.
“The Sociable … is always a good reminder of that,” Hutchins said.
Aagard has faithfully gone to the Sociable almost every year, but remembers one that she missed — due to the birth of her first child.
Hutchins said he has had family members also chair the event in the past and Aagard said she’s served on various committees and been the escort for her mother, an honored guest at the event.
For Grantsville residents, the Sociable — now in its 131st year — has been a constant presence. As the community has grown and changed, the co-chairs said they face the task of tying the event to the past and present, for residents who have lived in Grantsville their entire life and those who moved into the community recently.
One prominent change for this year’s event is the name, after the Sociable’s steering committee decided to alter the name from the Grantsville Old Folks Sociable to simply the Grantsville Sociable. While Aagard and Hutchins didn’t make the decision, they’ve been tasked with marketing the event and its new name to the community.
“That’s the important piece, the Sociable is really to honor those who have lived here and been a part of this community for a very long time,” Hutchins said. “Nothing has changed from that perspective.”
Aagard confirmed honored guests — residents who are 75 years or older — remain the focus despite “old folks” no longer being in the Sociable’s name. About 600 invitations were mailed to honored guests, who attend the event for free.
”It’s a time for them to get together and reminisce with their friends here in Grantsville,” Aagard said.
Begun in 1884, the Grantsville Sociable is the longest-running community event in Utah. In its 131-year history, the event has only been canceled twice: in 1901, due to smallpox and in 1919, as a result of an influenza outbreak.
The event started when leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suggested towns honor their elderly with an annual celebration.
Anyone age 18 and up is allowed to attend the Sociable. Hutchins said the event is reaching out beyond residents, to anyone with a tie, past or present, to Grantsville.
”One of the things that we need to do is continue to make the Sociable viable for this entire community,” Hutchins said. “The community has gotten larger and there are a lot more people that have moved in that don’t have ties to Grantsville and understand the traditions of the Sociable.”
Aagard said she came up with the theme for this years Sociable, which is “Hometown Roots and Cowboy Boots.”
“I’d heard something similar to that in the past year and after I knew that I was the chairman … I just kind of held on to that,” Aagard said.
The theme ties into the farming heritage of Grantsville and the rural nature of the town, Aagard said.
“The hometown roots piece is there are a lot of families that have been here a long, long time,” Hutchins said. “The decorations we’ve gone with honor some of the farmers that have been here, some of their unique brands.”
The set for the Sociable program will include a replica of the red barn at the historic Clark Farm and various old farm implements that were donated.
Held on Saturday, March 21, the 131st Grantsville Sociable begins with the car show at 11 a.m. and the honored guest reception starts at noon. The first program is at 2:30 p.m. and dinner is served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Putting together the Sociable on a budget of less than $24,000 can be a challenge, Aagard and Hutchins admitted. The Sociable is funded with ticket sales, local business donations and residents volunteering.
“It takes this whole community to put this event on,” Hutchins said.
At the past two sociables, the dance segments have been split between a live band and a DJ. This year’s Sociable will instead feature two live western dance bands.
There will also be live music during the sociable programs, which makes this year’s edition unique, Aagard said. The program will use music from the Grantsville Song Cycle, a heritage project to create music about the city’s history and surroundings.
The experience of co-chairing the Sociable has been a little nerve-wracking, Aagard admits. A fifth-grade teacher at Grantsville Elementary School, Aagard has still found it to be rewarding.
“I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “We want it to be the very best.”
Despite living in Grantsville their entire lives and having his children going through Aagard’s class, having Hutchins, the vice president of human resources at Finicity in Murray, serving as chair has allowed the chairs to become closer.
“I think a benefit of being the Sociable chairs is you get to know one another,” Hutchins said. “We’ve never been able to roll up our sleeves and work together so that’s been a lot of fun.”
Another major first for the sociable is tickets can be purchased online through a link on the Sociable’s Facebook page. Advance sale tickets are $18 and can also be picked up at Soelberg’s in Grantsville and Stansbury Park, Grantsville City Hall and the Macey’s in Tooele.
Tickets at the door will cost $20, which still works out to be a pretty good deal, Aagard said.
“For 20 dollars, that’s a great date night,” she said. “You getdinner and dancing and a show.”