Caching in on the Arts in Northern Utah

Visitors will find a concert, exhibit or festival around nearly every corner when Cache Valley shakes off winter and early spring snow.

Written By Catherine Reese Newton

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Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre   |  Waldron Creative
Northern Utah’s Cache Valley is located along the common I-15 road trip route between Yellowstone and Utah’s Mighty 5® national parks — making it a convenient stop for thousands of travelers. For the exploratory traveler, it’s much more than a pit stop, however. And if you think you have to stay in Salt Lake City or Park City to experience art and culture you’d be mistaken, according to Wendi Hassan, the executive director of Cache Valley Center for the Arts, the county agency more popularly known as CacheARTS.

Logan dominates this area’s entertainment landscape with a robust schedule spotlighting nationally touring shows and local talent at the historic Ellen Eccles Theatre. There’s also Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre and the Lyric Repertory Company, which between them offer more than 100 annual performances and enrichment activities (Read: 5 Utah Theaters Reviving Art, History and Architecture). 

Utah Festival, founded by Cache Valley native Michael Ballam, has been staging some of the genre’s best-known hits and promoting lesser-known repertoire at the Ellen Eccles Theatre on Main Street since 1993 and expanded to the Utah Theatre around the corner in 2016. Lyric Repertory Company, founded by W. Vosco Call in 1967 and now under the artistic direction of his grandson Richie Call, stages its shows in the historic Caine Lyric Theatre and on the campus of Utah State University.

But Utah Festival and Lyric Repertory are far from the only shows in town. When you hear Hassan rattle off a list of events filling the calendar — from chamber music to improv comedy to gallery strolls to community theater productions — you see what Cache Valley Visitors Bureau director Julie Hollist Terrill means when she says that the area pulls far above its weight in the cultural arts.

While Logan is home to year-round heritage and culture opportunities, here are three of the valley’s longer-standing institutions, to anchor or supplement a summer visit.
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The Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, with its rich 25-year history, offers a multi-faceted experience — one that gives patrons more than exceptional performances on the stage.

Photo: Waldron Creative

1. Summerfest Arts Faire

Cache County Event Center and Fairgrounds, 450 S. 500 West, Logan

A four-decade tradition, Summerfest draws around 50,000 visitors over the three days in June preceding Father’s Day, executive director Shirlene Davis says. The festival draws artists from coast to coast, though about two-thirds are from northern Utah and the surrounding region.

Davis says Summerfest prides itself on offering free admission, but also presenting art for sale at a wide range of price points, “so just about anybody can find something special in their price range.”

More than 100 artists and vendors in 14 categories display their wares in the juried festival. Entertainment on two stages is equally eclectic. Children are invited to make their own art at the Creation Station. And, of course, there are a couple of dozen food vendors.

Specific highlights include the pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter eggs, created by Chris Spencer, 2023’s best-in-show winner; and the watercolors of Doyle Geddes, winner of an audience vote. The festival also includes plein-air competition in painting and photography, with a new division for artists under age 16.

Davis, a former event manager, came out of retirement to run the popular festival in 2021. That same year, Summerfest moved a few blocks southwest from its longtime home on the grounds of the Logan Tabernacle due to ongoing renovations at the historic building. Though some patrons expressed nostalgia for the old location in the heart of downtown, the new venue offers more parking, more elbow room for artists and patrons and better restroom facilities.

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In central downtown Logan, you'll find three theaters within the same city block: the Ellen Eccles Theatre, the Utah Theatre, and the Caine Lyric Theatre, all of which host annual shows and represent the vibrant performing art scene alive in Northern Utah.

Photo: Mike Johnson


2. Summer Noon Music Series

89 S. 200 West, Logan

On any given weekday at noon between Memorial Day and the end of July, visitors can step inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel across the street from Logan High School and hear music. Concerts might range from an organ or cello recital to polka music to a solo show by Dan Truman (of Diamond Rio and Nashville Tribute fame) to a lecture demonstration on instruments from around the world.

Carol Foht, who runs the free series, explains that it grew out of an interfaith service in the aftermath of 9/11, presented by Cache Community Connections as a way to “bring the community together and make people feel better.” Now she counts 10,000 total visitors over the 10-week run and expects that number to rise with an anticipated return to the series’ original home, the newly renovated Logan Tabernacle, in summer 2025.

Logan’s “summer citizens” — 90 percent of them from Arizona, Foht estimates — make up the bulk of the audience, “but I’m hoping to get the [local] community more aware.” Perhaps the series’ four evening performances on an outdoor plaza on Main Street, scheduled just before curtain time at the nearby theaters, will help in that awareness effort.

Foht joined the Summer Noon organizing committee shortly before 2020 and took over as chairperson in 2021. Asked about her musical background, she quips, “I can play Alexa.” She says she is continually amazed at the caliber of performers in the community and regrets that the series can’t accept everyone who applies.

Lyric Repertory Company stages its shows in the historic Caine Lyric Theatre and on the campus of Utah State University.

Logan's Lyric Repertory Company was founded by W. Vosco Call in 1967 and is now under the artistic direction of his grandson Richie Call.

Photo: Lucas Bybee

3. Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art

650 N. 1100 East (on the Utah State University campus), Logan

It might seem surprising for the director of an art museum to point out that the facility is not a fine art museum. But Katie Lee-Koven, executive director and chief curator of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art since 2014, finds it worth noting because she prefers not to “place a hierarchy around media.” 

Ceramics was the passion of the museum’s benefactor and namesake, Lee-Koven explains — and believe it or not, ceramics isn’t considered “fine art.” There is something for everyone at NEHMA. “Our audience is broad,” Lee-Koven says. “The last thing we want is for people to feel unwelcome.” Outreach includes monthly community art days, with an art truck hitting the town’s farmers market in warmer months — and schools around the state at other times. Beginning in summer 2024, the Wanlass Center for Art Education and Research on the museum’s south side will open even more educational opportunities to scholars, students and the community.

NEHMA offers a major exhibition (such as “Unearthed: The NEHMA Ceramics Collection & The Woman Behind It” in 2024) each academic year. If you can’t make it to the USU campus, virtual tours of many current and past exhibitions are available.

Other exhibits, which Lee-Koven strives to make as diverse as possible, are installed on a semester basis — shows like “Artepaño,” cotton kerchiefs transformed into works of art by self-taught artists in the penal system; and works of “Hard-Edge” abstractionist June Harwood.

A wide selection of artwork from the permanent collection is also on display — don’t miss “Klompen,” a kinetic sculpture that transforms nearly 100 wooden clogs into musical instruments.

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