Under the Big Top

Image: Memory Grove Park, Salt Lake City, UT

Every year in Utah, the circus comes to Salt Lake City to amaze and entertain the masses. With 104 clowns and one spectacular Ringmaster (and plenty of supporting cast), this group spends 45 days every winter doing their best to solicit “oohs” and “ahhs” from the citizens of Utah. They tend to get more “ughs” than anything.

The Utah legislature’s annual general session is once again in full swing. And I’m once again perpetually hammered to get through it. Like the most addictive drug, this circus is something I can’t seem to shake. I swore it off this year. Promised myself I would spend these 45 days in ignorance, avoiding the local news, and forbidding the topic of state politics in all conversation. My liver begged me to stay strong.

I lasted about one week.

It started out as just a little hit. I mean, checking a couple headlines wouldn’t really hurt anything, right? Nobody needed to know; it would just be between me and my iPhone, and she promised not to tell anyone under threat of a broken retina display. So, I checked a couple stories and learned about some of the bills making their way through the House and Senate. A glance here, a perusal there, and within two days I was hooked. Officially off the wagon. And like any good addictive substance, this circus requires its users to consume copious amounts of beer.

I really thought this year might be different…toned down, if you will. After all, it’s the first session without perennial favorite Senator Chris Buttars. For those not familiar, former Senator Buttars is the fine, upstanding Mormon who went on record to describe homosexual relations as “pig sex” (pssst…Senator Buttars…only when I’m REALLY drunk) and a public school funding bill as a “black baby.” Yes, Senator Buttars, after years or railing against socialism, handouts and sucking from the federal teat, retired last year. Halfway through his term. And just after midnight on the day that qualified him for lifetime healthcare benefits paid for by the Utah taxpayers. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Alas, I was wrong. Buttars departure created some sort of vacuum and urgency to take bat-shit-crazy to the next level. Simultaneously, the Utah legislature passed bills allowing state and local governments to seize federally owned lands in Utah via eminent domain (because local control is ALWAYS better) and disallowing the City of Salt Lake to ban annoying electronic billboards (because local city councils NEVER know what they’re doing). I’m sure the former had nothing to do with the Tea Party and the latter had nothing to do with the thousands of dollars contributed by the billboard industry to the campaigns of the sponsors.

As I did my little dance with Utah’s version of Mr. Brownstone, I learned crazy is alive and well in Utah. I can try to hide from it, but really, the entertainment value is worth every penny. And when 80% of the state’s legislators are Republican, all you really need is….beer. Fortunately, a local Utah brewery has a special blend created just for the occasion. I generally stock up.

Photos by Hunter Wolfe


Hunter Wolfe is a recovering Mormon living in the Jello capital of the world.  As a progressive marooned in a state of regressives, he spends his time trying (and failing) to ignore the insanity around him. And drinking beer. Lots and lots of good, local beer.




  1. What percentage of alcohol does that beer have again…?

  2. Utah beer is glorious. Caused me some trouble in the past!

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