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Front Page » June 3, 2003 » Local News » Manti-LaSal: Wedding of the Forests
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Manti-LaSal: Wedding of the Forests

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The bride, the LaSal Forest, Glenn Casamassa and the groom, Manti Forest, Mesia Nyman share a tender moment.

A shotgun wedding united the Manti and LaSal National Forests 54 years ago. The participants reportedly had a grand celebration. The Manti-LaSal Forest personnel re-enacted the wedding as it kicked of its 100th birthday celebration. President Theodore Roosevelt designated the Manti Forest Reserve on May 29, 1903. In 1907 he changed the name of all forest reserves to national forests.

The wedding was held on May 29 at the Olsen Ranch in Joes Valley which is the site of the original shotgun wedding held in the fall of 1949. Forest employees and local officials were invited to witness a renewal of vows and enjoy a dutch oven dinner.

Art Olsen set the stage by welcoming the guests to his ranch and describing the wedding that took place at the family ranch in 1949. Olsen said the ranch is the site for their family reunions and sometimes they have as many as 300 people visit the ranch. He sees no need for power at the ranch and prefers its primitive setting. One special feature of the ranch is a fresh spring with the best tasting water around. Olsen said his grandfather homesteaded the ranch which included a cabin, corrals and an ice house. Olsen said it was a surprise and a joy to hold another wedding at the ranch and his father described the first wedding as a 'real shindig.' The two forests were combined on July 1, 1949, but the celebration wasn't held until fall. The LaSal forest had been orphaned by cutbacks in the forest and at first they thought they would combine them with the Uintah Forest, but that idea didn't work out with Provo too far away from Monticello. The decision was made to combine the two offices and open an office in Price. Olsen described the original wedding as a real shotgun affair just like the joining of the two forests had been, combined under a cover of darkness. Olsen described his dad as a good cook which was one of the reasons the forest service wanted to hold the wedding at the ranch. The original party went on for several days with a lot of eating, dancing and singing. Games such as horseshoes and swinging from a swing high in two trees was also on the agenda.

Melissa Blackwell, acting forest supervisor, provided background for the season long centennial celebration. Blackwell expressed appreciation for those turning out for the birthday and wedding celebration. She described the importance of the forest and the role it plays in the life of the surrounding communities. She spoke of the forest as it was in the late 1800s when overgrazing was a problem and how the forest has healed since that time. She said that decisions are ongoing on how the forest should be managed and sometimes scientists don't agree on how it should be done, such as with fire suppresion. "There are no easy or clear answers," said Blackwell. She described ATVs as one of the top issues the forest is dealing with at this time. She said the work for the future is cutout with combining local needs with national policy. She said the forest service is about celebrating the land and its past and future.

The first dance of the united forests Manti and LaSal.

The wedding began with Elizabeth Olsen Cunningham playing the wedding march on the organ used in the original wedding. The bride, District Ranger, Glenn Casamassa skipped down the aisle and the groom, District Ranger Mesia Nyman was drug down the path by a man with a gun. Deputy Regional Forester, Bert Kulesza presided as judge in what he described as 'unholy matrimony.' There was one voice of objection in good fun to the wedding, but Kulesza proceeded inspite of protests. He described how the bride, the LaSal Forest had spurned the Uintah Forest for a more convenient and handsome groom in the Manti Forest. Following the ceremony the bride and groom led the group in a dance to the tune of Your Cheatin Heart performed by Brad Exton.

Smokey is celebrating his 60th birthday this year and attended the wedding and birthday as an honored guest who will soon have his own star in Hollywood. The dutch oven dinner was sponsored by Carbon County Travel Bureau, Castle Country Travel Region, Emery County, and Allen Bleaker of United Land Management

The wedding celebration marks the beginning of a season of events taking place in the forest and in the communities surrounding the forest. A special event is scheduled at the Great Basin Environmental Education Center on July 24. Involvement in local parades will be part of the celebration as well as the Emery County Fair.

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