The Forgotten Past of the Fabulous Wilberg Resort

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Road to Wilberg Resort

Emery County Historical Society members recently gathered to listen and learn as Dottie Grimes, former director of the Emery County Archives, shared some secrets and stories about the forgotten past of the fabulous Wilberg Resort.

The Wilberg Resort, built by Carl Wilberg, opened July 3, 1928. It opened every year on Memorial Day and closed every year on Labor Day. The resort had a 80×120 foot open air dance floor, a large concession stand, swimming pool with 24 private bath houses where bathing suits could be rented, a lake, a picnic area, a large grove of trees, a silver fox farm and a zoo, which included a bear, coyote, mink, wildcat, large land turtle imported from the desert of Arizona, peacocks and eagles. There was also a flying swing.

The flying swing, which was built by Wilberg, had places for several people. Each spoke had a cable swing for a person and a long rope on the outside that was pulled by someone else. The swing would go fast and the swingers would fly outward from the circle.

The dance floor was fenced all the way around with shrubs and flowers. There was a pole in the center of the dance floor, which had a barrel shaped object on top that was a spotlight. Wires ran to the edges of the dance floor, creating a web of lights, which would change colors. The light panel was operated from the ticket booth. Many different bands or orchestras played at the Wilberg Resort.

Wilberg was one of the most enterprising early residents of Emery County. He had several sons and several business. Each business seemed to be assigned to one of his sons. When he started the resort, the whole family was involved in it. Wilberg planted trees all over the hill near Wilberg Wash and he and his sons groomed them. They hauled gravel from the Buckhorn area and made the cement floor for dancing. They used a motorized tool to grind any rough edge off and polished it so it would be perfect for dancing.

The boys would have to sweep the floor about a dozen times to get the dirt and debris off of it every week so that it would be ready to dance on. They would sprinkle Spangles Soap on the dance floor to make it slick for dancing. When it rained, the dance floor would look like a bubble bath and dancers would take their shoes off and dance in the rain. The cost to get into the dance was $.75.

The Wilberg Resort closed for the season on Labor Day in 1941 not knowing it would not be reopened. By the end of that year, the young men were drafted into World War II. The Wilberg family sent 15 of their boys off during the course of the war. The world had changed overnight.

The Wilberg Resort had opened with perfect timing for the needs of the people in Emery County. Its history and memories span the same years as the Great Depression.

“The Wilberg Resort took the edge off the Depression. Everyone had to work hard to earn just enough to eat and buy a few clothes. Dancing at Wilberg’s gave the people the relaxation they needed,” Owen McCenahan recalled.

Emery County Archives is looking for more information about the Wilberg Resort to preserve as much of its historic history as possible. Those looking to share their stories and photographs may do so by calling (435) 381-2671.

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