In 1962, when the Utah Shakespeare Festival launched its inaugural season, Fred C. Adams, the festival’s founder, chose “The Merchant of Venice” as one of the premier shows, based on stories of pioneers mounting makeshift productions of that Shakespeare classic as they crossed the plains, relying on handwritten scripts that the amateur actors studied “when they weren’t pushing or pulling,” to use Adams’ words.

Fred Adams himself can be considered a pioneer in his own right. Few would have predicted that the scrappy, bootstrapped festival he launched over five decades ago would transform a tiny southern Utah town into an internationally recognized and respected cultural centerpiece and the primary champions of William Shakespeare’s legacy. But Fred Adams had a vision, and those humble beginnings inexorably led to bigger and better things, culminating with this year’s opening of the Beverly Sorenson Center for the Arts, the new home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival that includes two spectacular new theaters and a world-class museum.

While it is impossible to assign a specific value to this priceless artistic treasure, no one should underestimate the considerable economic impact that this $40 million facility will have on Cedar City and, indeed, the whole state of Utah. As people come to the Beehive State to take in a show, they will need places to eat and sleep, and local businesses will be more than happy to accommodate them. This "multiplier effect" is often used to justify using taxpayer dollars to build expensive sports arenas. The fact that this particular economic engine is being driven primarily with private and not public funds makes the Utah Shakespeare Festival's accomplishment even more impressive.

True, there are many people who wouldn't think twice about buying a ticket to a sporting event but might skip Shakespeare. Such people simply don't know what they're missing. Shakespeare has endured because of his universal appeal, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival has endured because they've found ways to make these plays relevant and entertaining to modern audiences. They've also extended their repertoire to include modern classics outside the Shakespeare canon. (Full disclosure: this paper is a proud sponsor of this summer's production of "Mary Poppins.") This is a festival with something to offer to anyone of any age.

It's especially gratifying to know that Fred C. Adams, now 85 years old, has been able to live to see the full scope of his vision fulfilled. The Utah Shakespeare Festival is part of a grand tradition rooted in the rich cultural history of the state of Utah. May it continue to thrive and prosper for generations to come.