CEDAR CITY — No one is having more fun these days than Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt, and he's not about to let some whiny naysayers tell him he ought to stop.
"We never intended people to take this so seriously," said Sherratt, whose laughter can spread rapidly from a single giggle to a series of belly laughs.
Sherratt's full-throttle chuckles begin when talk floats about a new festival planned for this city made famous by the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival.
However, The Festival Royale of Himmelsk really is being planned and there is serious talk about persuading the king and queen of Himmelsk to attend the April celebration.
The only trouble, said Sherratt, is that the royal couple is totally fictional, utterly made up, and the instigators live right here in Cedar City.
"Well, yes, now you know who dreamed this up," said Sherratt, who admitted to being the brains behind the public relations banter. "But we really are going to find a king and queen. We hear they're living in Hoboken, New Jersey. I wrote a letter a few months ago, but they never answered."
Oh well, if you can't find the real thing, why not try for a celebrity look-alike?
"They might have to go to a plastic surgeon every year for a face lift, but we'll bring them here," Sherratt said, trying to hold another laugh in check.
To keep the entertainment level ramped up, the Festival Royale will be a showcase for comedians who specialize in good E-rated jokes and skits, he said.
"They have to be clean," he said. "You know how things are getting these days. Bill Cosby would be good."
Sherratt and his volunteer cohorts, members of the nonprofit Royal Society of Cedar City, even dabbled in teasing the public with several ads published by the local newspaper in St. George.
"We said some rare Viking artifacts had been found in some caves near Cedar City," he said. "We even said the artifacts had been sent to the Hofmann Laboratories for authentication. Get it? Hofmann?"
Among the "extremely rare" artifacts found in the darkened cave, said Sherratt, were: 1. A piece of alien clothing with room for eight legs and two heads found at Area 52 in Nevada. How does Sherratt know the outfit came from an alien? "There's a label inside that says it was made on Mars," he said. 2. The original Mona Lisa will also be on display. Mona is, of course, frowning in the first painting — she didn't think it properly displayed her beauty. 3. The world's very first velvet painting of Elvis will also be on display. "Highly collectible," Sherratt murmurs.
Whatever you do, says Sherratt, remember the Festival Royale is going to be a real hoot and a lot of fun. Folks who are miffed there's a playful mayor behind the city's latest PR plunge need to get a life, he said.
"People are commenting about this all across the country. Some people are sending me their own tall tales," Sherratt said. "Maybe we ought to have a contest for that. . . . "
Cedar City will soon be known as "Festival City, U.S.A.," the mayor said.
"Our plan is to have a different festival every month of the year. We'll have a Christmas Festival and the Great American Stampede," he said.
Last year, tourists spent $85 million in this city at the foot of Cedar Mountain. Sherratt wants tourists to double that amount before they leave town.
"I think this is going to be a huge success!" says Sherratt before dissolving in another tearful fit of laughter.