Vacationers at Little Sahara recreational area - the perennial trouble spot among Utah's popular Easter weekend getaways - were sparse and quiet this Easter for the first time in years.
Evidently thousands of Utahns forsook Little Sahara after last year's riotous crowding in favor of points farther south.While officials at Little Sahara report crowds one-third the size expected, officials in other areas say crowds are larger than ever.
No more than 7,000 people motored to Little Sahara to experience the dunes this year compared with crowds of 15,000 to 20,000 in years past, said Juab County Sheriff Dave Carter.
"This is proving to be a quiet weekend," he said. "The riotous crowds of last year are not in attendance."
They may have gone to St. George. The manager of a pizza store in St. George, a favorite spot for high school and college students to spend their Easter break from studies, told the Deseret News that the spring-break weekend in the city had been punctuated with "a couple of big fights."
When the Deseret News contacted the St. George Police Department, a department sergeant said he was not allowed to release information on police activity. But he did say the town was "as crowded or maybe worse than last year."
That comes as good news to St. George's fast-food outlets."Friday was the largest volume day we've had since we opened here in 1985," said John Chapman, co-manager of Wendy's in St. George.
It appeared Saturday would equal or top Friday's volume. "I measured the volume at 5 p.m. and it was as high as Friday's at 5 p.m. This will be a record weekend," Chapman said.
Chapman said he hired 15 employees a month ago to get ready for this weekend. "It scares us in a way. But it brings us business and we enjoy that."
Moab also reported record crowds. Business at the Moab Golf Club was up over last year, said golf pro Glen Richeson. "Maybe we are just getting better known," he said.
The same can be said for Nevada's Mesquite, south of St. George, a former desert town that has blossomed into a popular gambling resort, drawing larger crowds each Easter weekend.
"We are overbooked for the whole weekend," said a desk clerk at the Peppermill, the town's largest resort. "We are packed," confirmed a reservation clerk. "I'd say at least 85 percent are Utahns."
Weather for Easter weekend was all vacationers could hope for. Skies were blue and sunny across the state Saturday. Sunshine is forecast for Sunday as well with a noticeable increase in temperature for most of Utah.
Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to mid-70s Sunday.
"Temperatures Saturday were on target for this time of year. But I'd say they will be abnormally warm Sunday," said Brenda Graham, meteorologist with the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.