HILDALE – The gates of a compound originally constructed to keep the outside world away will stand open to welcome people from all walks of life Saturday as America’s Most Wanted Bed & Breakfast in Hildale hosts a free Thanksgiving feast for friends near and far.
“That’s our motto: ‘Friends serving friends,’ and that’s who our friends are – whoever shows up,” Willie Jessop, owner of America’s Most Wanted Bed & Breakfast, said.
The property that now houses the bed and breakfast was originally built as a home for Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who is currently serving a life prison sentence in Texas for child sexual assault. In 2011, prior to his conviction, Jeffs told his followers that if they sacrificed their time, money and labor to build the mansion for him and nearby homes for his high council members – who were also jailed and awaiting trial – God would free them all from prison by the end of the year. So, while the mansion was built for Jeffs, he never actually lived there, having been later convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years.
Jessop, who once served as Jeffs’ bodyguard but has since left the FLDS church, said FLDS members have been banned from celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving under Jeffs’ rule.
To his knowledge, Jessop said, Saturday’s feast will be the first large public Thanksgiving event of its kind, open to any and all, to ever take place in the history of Hildale and neighboring Colorado City, Arizona, collectively known to locals as the Short Creek community.
“Mr. Jeffs took away the opportunity for people to get together and enjoy one another and have an opportunity for gratitude,” he said.
Jessop said large commercial party tents have been set up in the back courtyard of the bed and breakfast, and heaters will also be set up for the occasion. Volunteers will serve the food, and anyone and everyone is invited to attend the feast for free.
Jessop said he hopes the feast will serve multiple purposes: Giving Short Creek community members – both non-FLDS and former FLDS alike – a place to gather, give thanks and enjoy community camaraderie; provide a nice Thanksgiving meal for those who didn’t have the means to have one of their own; and give curious outsiders an opportunity to visit Short Creek as invited guests.
“Everyone is welcome, and we’re hoping that everyone will find the time to come up and participate and enjoy,” Jessop said.
The feast will take place Saturday from 1-5 p.m. America’s Most Wanted Bed & Breakfast is located at 240 E. Utah Ave. in Hildale. A map to the bed and breakfast can be found here. The feast will be hosted in the back courtyard of the compound, located on the north side of the bed and breakfast.
- What: Community Thanksgiving feast
- When: Saturday, Nov. 29 | 1-5 p.m.
- Where: America’s Most Wanted Bed & Breakfast, 240 E. Utah Ave. in Hildale | Map
- Admission: Free
- America’s Most Wanted Bed & Breakfast website
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