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Logan summer invasion begins as summer citizens seek to beat heat

Logan summer invasion begins as golden-years crowd seeks refuge from heat
Logan summer invasion begins as golden-years crowd seeks refuge from heat
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(KUTV) Every summer they come by the hundreds across the country to the small northern Utah town of Logan, bringing millions of dollars in revenue and turning the town into a mini-New York City, Broadway-style event.

They are senior citizens who come from Arizona, California, Texas and Nevada - escaping the intense heat for Logan's mild temperatures.

Logan is not just an escape for the snowbirds; it's also an opportunity to participate in Utah State University's Summer Citizens Program, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

"When the students leave Logan in the summer, it's a huge void," said program coordinator Linda D'Addabbo. "And so the summer citizens come in and fill that void."

Summer citizens live in on-campus dorms or off-campus student apartments. These options put them within 10 feet of each other's front doors, and some like the close-knit feel.

"We like the people up here," said Tom Nicoll, a senior citizen. "It's kind of like a second family."

Utah State University started the Summer Citizens Program in 1976 with the idea of continuing education for senior citizens.

D'Addabbo spends most of the year planning and recruiting for the program, presenting in 12 cities in three states.

"It's so worth it," she said.

Not only does the program prevent the inactivity so many college towns experience when students leave. Logan thrives in the summer.

Good for business

Saboor Sahely owns Angie's Restaurant, a "breakfast, lunch and dinner" diner in Logan. According to him, the "summer citizens" can usually afford to regularly dine out, unlike college students.

"It makes a huge difference," Sahely said. "They are regulars. Keep in mind, they eat out seven days a week. They don't cook."

During the three-month program, summer citizens bring $4.1 million in revenue to the town. That includes spending on housing, dining and classes, but especially the arts.

Under the direction of Michael Ballam, the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre will pack 136 events, which includes five major Broadway-like shows, into its seven-week festival. The festival runs from June 24 through August 10.

This year the historic Utah Theatre will reprise its grandeur from the 1920s, with more than $11.5 million-worth of renovations over a nine-year period.

"There is no other city in the United States that does what we do here," said Ballam, the founding general director for the UFOMT. "We essentially do what you would expect Chicago or Los Angeles or New York City to do."

It takes $4.5 million to put on the festival, which is performed in four theaters located in a one-block radius. Ballam said it only sells out because of the summer citizens.

"They support everything," he said. "They come to everything we do. So we have this core of an audience we can count on."

Lifelong learners

Although their bedtimes are usually before midnight, in some ways summer citizens experience college life again. They connect with roommates, join clubs and even get a student ID card. Participants can also enroll in any of the 50 classes offered, like yoga, portrait sculpting or "How to Optimize Your Android Phone or Tablet."

"My schedule is so busy, I can't do everything I want to try to do," said Geoffrey Toner, a senior citizen taking a sculpting class.

Some college students who stay in Logan said they experience culture shock.

"The culture changes from a college town into the direct opposite," said Jake Bussey, a student living in Logan over the summer. "All the nightlife stops and mostly just like sight-seeing and sculpture tours and things like that."

Bussey said the summer citizens are "cool."

"I've never had to worry about them," said Alyssa Steed, who lives at an apartment complex that hosts summer citizens. "They stick to themselves. They'll say 'hi' when you walk by."

Like clockwork

Summer citizens have been returning to Logan every summer since 1976.

"The relationships that we've formed are very special," Toner said.

"We love the weather, and we love the campus," said Chris Schorr, referring to Utah State University. "The campus is just absolutely beautiful... There are lots of things to do."

D'Addabbo said the snowbirds will continue to fly north for summer and there will always be things for them to do.

"It's like a summer camp for seniors," she said.

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For more information on the program go to Summer Citizens' website.

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