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Utah’s official food — Jell-O?

Petition drive aims to elevate the jiggly treat

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OREM — Between the Navajo taco stand and the sno-cone booth at the Freedom Festival Picnic in the Park there is some serious business going on in the name of Jell-O. Jeremiah Christenot is recalling his favorite Jell-O memory.

"My mom used to make little Jell-O squares for wrestling meets. As soon as I made weight for a tournament I would eat Jell-O."

Christenot is one of several BYU students recruited by Jell-O to help make the jiggly treat the official food of Utah. Monday he helped man a booth stocked with Jell-O molds and T-shirts. At today's parade he will march up and down the route with his group getting signatures for a petition.

The plan is to get enough signatures by January to persuade a state senator to sponsor a bill making Jell-O Utah's official food. When the parade is over, Christenot and his Jell-O army will take their cause to the Utah State Fair, the BYU Homecoming game and First Night.

Nora Bertucci, vice president of public relations for Jell-O, expects to get at least 50,000 signatures.

"Jell-O is such a part of the culture here. Jell-O is all about family fun, and Utah embodies that."

Until last year, Salt Lake City was the top market for Jell-O consumption in the world. In May, Scott Blakerby of Bambara Restaurant in Salt Lake started a recipe contest to "take back the title" from Des Moines, Iowa.

Blakerby's contest sparked the effort to make Jell-O Utah's official food. Jell-O officials say that in a state that has an official folk dance (the square dance), anything is possible.

"It's been such a fun thing. Whenever we explain (the petition) to people they just smile. They don't laugh, they smile," Bertucci said.

That may be because Jell-O is as much a part of Utah culture as the honeybee (the official insect) or the seagull (the official bird).

There was even a song released in the 1980s called "Mormon Rap" that paid homage to green Jell-O with carrots.

If the petition becomes a bill that passes, no one will be able to dispute Utah's love affair with Jell-O, Bertucci says. Not even Des Moines.

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com