Summer seniors welcome (copy)

Logan Summer Citizens visit with community members and business representatives during a May 2019 welcome fair in the Taggart Student Center at Utah State University.

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Although Utah State University has canceled its annual Summer Citizens program due to coronavirus concerns, many “sunbirds” from Arizona are still considering stays in Logan this summer.

The Oakridge apartment complex bordering USU reported Tuesday that it has seen only seven cancellations so far from the 52 couples signed up to stay there.

“A lot of them are unsure. They might still come,” complex manager Tilisa Lapuaho said. “We are giving them until May 1 to let us know, and it looks like many are going to wait and see if anything changes by then.”

A lot could depend on the fate of two popular summer entertainment programs: The Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre and the Logan Tabernacle Noon Concert Series, neither of which have been officially canceled to date.

The Lyric Repertory Theatre, another big attraction for summer seniors, announced earlier this month that it is calling off its 2020 season. But at last notice, the opera was still hoping to go on with its summer schedule contingent on state health recommendations and orders, which would have to include the lifting of Gov. Gary Herbert’s restriction on public gatherings before the start of the theater season in early July. The noon concert series also appears to be in a holding pattern.

“That’s what draws me up there,” four-year summer citizen Christina Compton said in a phone interview Tuesday from her Arizona home, referring to Logan’s many entertainment offerings. “That and the weather, because it’s so lovely in the summertime up there, and the people are wonderful too.”

Compton hasn’t decided whether or not to make the trip north, and her decision has been complicated by another factor. She said the apartment complex she prepaid to stay in, Cambridge Court, told her she would not be able to get a refund on her roughly $2,400 summer rent payment.

One of the owners of the complex, Brett Nilsson of Layton, said refunds will be made to summer citizens whose contracts can be replaced by other renters, but those who don’t want to come need to get on a list.

“We’ll do everything we can to replace those contracts, because we still have a lot of our people that want to come and to have us operate our summer program and to have those contracts,” he said. “We haven’t made any final decisions other than that ... at this point we may be able to replace all of those contracts and it may not even be an issue.”

Cambridge Court is one of seven private facilities that team up with USU to provide summer citizen housing. The university has provided refunds for all seniors signed up to stay in three participating campus facilities, and two other private apartment complexes contacted by The Herald Journal, Oakridge and Four Seasons, indicated they are giving refunds without contract-replacement.

Compton has talked with other summer citizens registered at Cambridge Court, and she said they share her opinion refunds should be readily available considering the extraordinary circumstances brought on by the coronavirus.

“Many of us feel that we are entitled to a refund on the housing since the Summer Citizen program and many of the activities we come to Logan for are now canceled,” she said.

Also weighing on the 73-year-old’s mind is whether it would be wise from both a public and personal health standpoint to travel across state lines at this time.

“I’d still like to go, even if all I can do is hike, walk around the campus and that kind of thing,” Compton said. “I’m still in communication with most of the other renters. Some would like to go and some want their money back. Some are afraid to go — not only afraid to possibly catch something but also afraid of bringing anything in from Arizona.”

Going into March, when the coronavirus pandemic was declared, there were 850 people registered for the 2020 Summer Citizens program. Organizers expected about 1,000 would ultimately participate in the activities and classes offered by the university, which covered a wide range of subjects including yoga, aquarobics, crafts, history and computer instruction.

USU spokeswoman Emilie Wheeler said the university is exploring the possibility of providing some online classes for summer citizens, which would be available to both those who come to Logan and those who stay home. An update on these offerings is expected by May 1.

The arrival of summer citizens provides a significant boost to the local economy. Cache Valley Visitors Bureau Director Julie Hollist Terrill, who participates in an annual recruiting trip to Arizona retirement communities, is hoping conditions allow for many to still make the pilgrimage.

“I, like many others, am very disappointed that the Summer Citizens program has been canceled for this year,” Hollist Terrill said. “We look forward to the summer citizens coming every summer season and hope that many of them will still join us this summer even without the program.”

Hollist Terrill has kept a close eye on local program cancellations, holding out hope that the coronavirus situation will ease enough to allow for a brisk seasonal economy in Cache Valley. She has been particularly interested in the plans of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, whose five rotating summer productions are a big draw for seniors and out-of-town visitors.

UFOMT Director Michael Ballam has posted a video message on the theater company’s website expressing hope and confidence that the season can go on. He is seen sitting at a piano and concludes his talk with a rendition of the song “My Cup Runneth Over” from one of the musicals included in the summer lineup.

“That’s what’s going to get us through — love. Love for each other, love for the arts and love for a bright future,” he said. “You’ve been so generous to us through the years. If you are contemplating a donation to us, this would be a very good time to do that … I promise you the best summer experience you can ever have.”

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