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West Valley City Journal

All-Star readers meet all-star mascots at Salt Lake County library event

Mar 08, 2023 12:08PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Aimee Broadbent of Salt Lake brought her son Deklan to meet the mascots Feb. 15 as a reward for completing the winter reading challenge. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)

The NBA All-Star events in Salt Lake were the perfect backdrop to celebrate All-Star readers in February. A winter reading event sponsored by the Salt Lake County Library kicked off Jan. 3. Readers who stayed engaged during the program were invited to meet the Jazz Bear and other NBA mascots Feb. 15 at the Viridian Center in West Jordan.

“We’re very fortunate to host the NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake County and to be able to offer such a unique prize to our readers,” said County Library Program Manager Nyssa Fleig. “We hope offering a once-in-a-lifetime event like this will help create readers for life.”

The party kicked off just after 6 p.m. when the mascots came in, turned up the music and shot off their confetti cannons. All attendees got to enter through a balloon arch and then made their way to a decorated event room. Two big screen TVs showed NBA All-Star footage. Kids could play cornhole, or life-size chess and connect four while they waited to meet mascots. 

The event brought out families from all over the valley, like Salt Lake City’s Aimee Broadbent and her 9-year-old son Deklan. 

“I like to read…just a bit,” Deklan said, with a joking twinkle in his eye. 

“He loves it!” Broadbent said. 

His favorite books? “I like scary stories.”

The All-Star Winter Reading wasn’t just about reading—it challenged kids to stay engaged during the winter with different activities and report their progress online.  

“I did all the activities. I read, I played basketball, and I colored in every activity,” Deklan said. 

Broadbent said they’d participated in and attended the event before. But with the All-Star game happening this weekend, there’s some added excitement.

People had their choice of several mascots to meet, greet and get photos with, starting with Owlexander the library’s owl. Unified Police and the Salt Lake County Sheriff brought their mascots—a dog named Sgt. Siren and a horse named Sgt. Lightning.  

Three NBA teams sent their mascots: the Miami Heat’s fireball Burnie, Clutch the bear of the Houston Rockets, and Blaze the Trail Cat of the Portland Trail Blazers. And from the NBA G League (minor league basketball), the SLC Stars were represented by the Jazz Bear’s cousin, Buster Bear.

But for loyal Utahns like the Waltons of Taylorsville who had played Jr. Jazz and seen lots of Jazz games, meeting the Jazz Bear for the first time was the most exciting thing about the night.    

“We participate in the library reading events all the time because the girls love to read,” said Melena Walton of her daughters Ella and Lila. “We did the library’s preschool class when they were younger and came to reading time and puppet shows.”

The girls, now 14 and 10, kept busy during the winter with skiing and Jr. Jazz basketball. They stayed engaged with the other winter challenge activities like being creative, getting outdoors and trying new things. 

But they definitely made time to read—Ella in the Star Wars novels, and Lila the Half Upon a Time series. Of course they’ve made their way through the Harry Potter and Fablehaven series. And when it comes to how they read, they’re traditionalists. 

“I like the feel of a book in my hands, not an e-reader. I like turning pages in a real book, it’s just different,” Lila said, and Ella agreed.