Despite an hourlong power outage Wednesday night, despite the throngs of thousands converging on one location and despite the challenge of maneuvering through Provo's traffic at any given time, this year's Education Week provided just that - education.
"It is always remarkable to me how fresh and exciting the knowledge and understanding comes - and the increase of faith and gratitude I come away with after attending a class here," said Frank Bollido of Phoenix. "This is the highlight of our year. We plan everything else around this week."Touted as the largest single-event adult education program in the United States, the Brigham Young University-sponsored program featured nearly 1,100 classes, about 27,500 registered attendees and 179 faculty members. Classes concluded Friday.
This year's theme centered on the importance of the integration of mind, body and spirit.
"Nourishing each of these creates a tremendous power to help us realize a fulfilling life," said Campus Education Week director Mack Palmer. "Not only are our personal lives enriched by this integration, but our ability and preparedness to serve the Lord and others are greatly increased."
Class topics this year included developing stronger family ties and marriages, managing finances, parenting roles, significant events in history, government and political science, the beauty of music, career opportunities and youth activities.
Several classes were dedicated solely to religious topics. In cooperation with BYU's Continuing Education department, the event was directed by the Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Instructors included Ardeth G. Kapp, former Young Women general president for the LDS Church; Bernell L. Christensen, director of the Sandy LDS Institute of Religion; Michael Ballam, operatic star and USU professor of vocal music; and Bruce C. Hafen, author and BYU provost.
For Dave Smith, BYU Bookstore's general merchandise supply manager, Education Week is one of the biggest events for him and his staff.
"When fall semester starts, there are more people buying textbooks, but Education Week is pretty close to largest single event here," he said. "We actually look forward to it, most of us really enjoy it."
Smith said LDS religious reference materials - specifically books and other publications by faculty members speaking at Education Week - are the biggest sellers during the event.
"We try and be as user-friendly as possible despite the crowds," he said.
Even Mother Nature got involved as a brief but powerful thunderstorm knocked out power to most of campus Wednesday as late afternoon classes were beginning. But the blackout didn't dampen spirits much; most instructors continued with classes, some without light, some relying on backup generator power.
Many area hotels were booked at least a year in advance for Education Week, and lodging facilities in Utah and Salt Lake counties are often full of visitors attending the event.
Robert Smith, a front desk clerk at the Comfort Inn University just south of Cougar Stadium, said of the 101 rooms in the motel about 80 were reserved by Education Week participants.
"I've had a lot of people ask to book for next year's Education Week, even before this year's is over," he said. "They do this because most people who come say it's so hard to get housing."
On-campus housing facilities are filled each year in April, when a newsletter mailed in March is sent to those who attend the previous year's event.
And although a parking lot northwest of the Smith Fieldhouse is annually turned into a recreational vehicle retreat, others stay with friends and family.
"Our daughter and her husband invited us to stay with them this year," said Joan Fluke, who was at Education Week visiting from Montana. "This is a great time of the year to come down and be with family, and at the same time learn from one another."