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There are more than 1.8 million stories under the title "What living in Utah means to me," and the Centennial Commission wants to hear each and every one of them.

To that end, the commission has joined the Utah Humanities Council and the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies in sponsoring an ambitious project called "Faces of Utah."The goal is to compile hundreds of thousands of essays in what the sponsors say could be "the largest social historical document ever gathered."

Project coordinators are setting the stage for the massive undertaking with an informational blitz designed to reach every school, church, civic organization and individual resident in the state.

"Our goal is to involve everyone," said Delmont Oswald of the Utah Humanities Council. "We are reaching out to all ages and every community, economic level, ethnic group and geographic region in the state. No one is being left out."

Project director Shannon Hoskins added, " `Faces of Utah' is an event everyone in the state can relate to and participate in."

Moreover, it allows today's residents to reflect on life in Utah going into the centennial celebration and to share those reflections with future generations, she said.

The state school system has already signed up, agreeing to invite schools throughout the state to participate in the project. Also, essay forms will be made available at all public libraries, Smith's Food and Drug stores and other public locations, and Reagan Outdoor Advertising has donated space on 15 billboards to help get the message out.

Gov. Mike Leavitt is scheduled to launch the project with a public reading of his essay on Statehood Day, Jan. 4, 1995.

The plan, according to Oswald, is to have as many people as possible write their essays on that same day to provide a snapshot of life in Utah as the state looks ahead to its 100th birthday on Jan. 4, 1996. However, the project will accept essays before and after that day, focusing mostly on the month of January, he said.

"People can write about anything. We've purposely left it open. By keeping it simple, we expect to receive some very profound statements," Oswald said. "We expect some negative reflections as well, and that's fine, too."

The essay forms are designed for relatively short statements, but Oswald said length, too, is optional. "Anything from a paragraph to several pages."

For those people who believe a picture is worth a thousand words, the project even invites the submission of photographs that express their feelings about living in Utah.

Oswald said "Faces of Utah" is the first major activity in the year-long lead-in to the 1996 Centennial celebration. All of the essays will be collected and archived in their original form at the Utah Historical Society.

Oswald said the essays also will be recorded electronically for easy access, and some of the best submissions may be put together in a book.