Uranium Days 1956: The celebration
For several years beginning in 1956, Moab hosted an annual festival dubbed “Uranium Days,” which celebrated the town’s booming wealth and growth on account of uranium mining. This short-lived celebration was established to compete with events like the Green River Melon Fest and various other festivals occurring around the state. The first event was held on August 17 and 18 in Moab.
The Times-Independent reported on August 23, 1956, “Uranium days hit Moab in full force on Friday morning and were there very much in evidence until late Saturday night. It was two full days of parades, programs, dances, and merchandising events for Moab’s residents and visitors from out of town, and judging from the large crowds, and feeling of excitement from people on the street, the first of what is hoped to be an annual event was a huge success.” Uranium Days, however, would sadly be held for only four years, with the last court serving in 1960.
The inaugural Uranium Court
One of the highlights of the event was the naming of the Uranium Queen and her court. Eight contestants, each sponsored by an independent mining company, vied for the “honor of reigning over the two-day celebration,” according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on August 16, 1956.
“Friday evening the festivities got underway with the crowning of the Queen,” the Times-Independent reported on August 23. The contestants would compete later in the State Dairy Princess contest at the State Fairgrounds later in September of that year.
Marjorie “Mardy” Dawn Thomson (b. 1936), Miss Standard Uranium, was named the inaugural Uranium Queen in 1956. She later married William H. Lewis in Moab. Nancy Elizabeth Nault (b. 1939), Miss Federal Uranium, was named Mardy’s attendant (left in the image) and later married Moab’s Garry Joe Day. Hallene “Hally” Thorne (b. 1939), Miss Utex Exploration, was named Mardy’s second attendant (right in the image) and later married Olin T. Glover in Moab. All three attended Grand County High School; the two attendants graduated in 1958 and the queen graduated a year earlier.
The 2023 mural
On October 1 this year, Dr. Chip Thomas, a photographer, public artist, activist, and physician who has been working on the Navajo Nation since 1987, installed a mural supported by the Moab Arts and Recreation Center on the Moab Museum building on Center St. The photo, a selection from the Moab Museum Collection, displays the 1956 Uranium Queen and her attendants riding a vehicle riding down Center Street in the Uranium Days Parade.
Pictured in the image are the 1st place float by Hecla Mining Co., the New Cooper Martin Building (where the Spoke currently resides), First Security Bank (at the current Wells Fargo site), the Fletcher-Robertson Building (now home to The T-Shirt Shop), and the Times-Independent building, where Desert Threads currently resides.
If you are related to any of these women, the Moab Museum would love to hear from you, especially stories recounting what it was like to serve on the first court of the Uranium Days celebration here in Moab.
The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.
This article was originally published in the Moab Sun News.