TUACAHN, THE “BROADWAY OF THE DESERT”
The stage is set, the cast and crew are ready, the audience stirs slightly to take their seats as the lights dim—highlighting the starlight sky above and rugged sides of scenic red rock circling the stage. Tuacahn holds a special place in the hearts and minds of those native to St. George, but also to those who come from around the country and world to visit. Known to many as the “Broadway of the Des-ert,” Tuacahn invites 300,000 guests per year to fill the outdoor amphitheater at the open-ing of Padre Canyon near Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, Utah. Coming second only to Zion National Park, Tuacahn Center for the Arts stimulates Southern Utah’s tourist industry by $95 to $100 million per year providing hotels, restaurants, and other business jobs to the area.
Explaining its origin, Tuacahn’s website states, “…It’s hard to imagine (Tuachan’s) primitive beginning. Yet just as this natural amphitheater was shaped by centuries of scorching heat and desert rain, so too has the history and future … been molded by winds of change and the shaping power of dreams.
Built on the shoulders of Orval Hafen (the original owner of Padre Canyon) as well as the unparalleled drive and ambition of Doug Stewart and Hyrum W. Smith, a seemingly impossible dream blossomed into the reality that exists today.”
“Without the support, encouragement, and assistance from the St. George SBDC, the PPP’s and Shuttered Venue Grants (SVOG), we may have closed or been in debt for an additional 5 to 10 years,”
– Kevin Smith
In early 2021, on the eve of celebrating it’s 25 year anniversary, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, hitting event centers like Tuacahn especially hard. Faced with the difficult decision of closing the doors for good or entrenching the institution in millions of dollars in debt for many years, the board, chaired by Jonathan Hafen and management, including Kevin Smith, turned to the local St. George Small Business Development Center with support from the Small Business Administration to save this local landmark.
“Without the support, encouragement, and assistance from the St. George SBDC, the PPP’s and Shuttered Venue Grants (SVOG), we may have closed or been in debt for an additional 5 to 10 years,” said Kevin Smith.
With the assistance of the St. George SBDC and funding from the SBA, the nationally recognized regional theater has become a group of pioneering professionals in the performing arts industry. Tuacahn was the first fully vaccinated cast and crew theatrical company. They hosted the inauguration of Utah Governor Spencer Cox in January 2021, possibly the first regional theatre event in the country. They were also the first major repertory theater to perform shows as restrictions from the pandemic eased nation-wide. Like their pioneer ancestors before them, the members of the Tuacahn theatrical company made it through trials with per-severance, resilience, determination, and dedication from the community they love. The year 2021 became the best on record.
Now, Tuacahn owners and company members are hopeful that circumstances are becoming more normal, and people are turning away from fear. The cast and crew are following COVID protocols, and they are happy to continue entertaining families for generations to come.
Business Assisted by The SBDC At: