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This summer, a Sugar House woman’s backyard will once again host live music



Salt Lake City, Utah – In the backyard of Carolyn Turkanis’ Sugar House home, partygoers claim her intimate garden matches even the best outdoor venues, all while enjoying live music, wonderful spirits, and a nice breeze.

“There was one night, and I forget the name of the band, but it started raining and everyone thought, ‘Dang it, we’re going to have to go home,'” said Harvest Merrill, who’s attended Turkanis’ gatherings for about a decade. “She goes, ‘No.’ She opened up the garage, we all go in the garage and they just hammered away for another hour, and I thought, ‘This is the place to be.'”

For 24 years, Turkanis, who is 82 years old, has thrown backyard parties for friends, neighbors, and local musicians on Saturday nights during the summer.

“I know that neighbors want to meet each other, and people want to make new friends, and even more so after COVID that people appreciate friendships, and I have met the most amazing people in this very garden,” Turkanis said.

Her rear garden is transformed into a small, exclusive music venue with a stage lighted by glittering lights for her summer parties, which begin with a potluck when attendees bring food to share. But all of this almost ended more than 20 years ago.

Turkanis got warnings from Salt Lake local last summer informing her that her backyard performances were against the local ordinances. She had appealed, but she had withdrawn it earlier in the year. “I had been grieving all winter and into the spring,” Turkanis said.

“I was really heartbroken because for me this has just been such a big part of my summer,” said Izzy Zahalak, reflecting on the time she heard summer evenings in Turkanis’ garden may be coming to an end. “Since I was 16 or so I’ve been really involved in making sure I get to see the same people from the neighborhood and people from around the valley.”

Carolyn had her first of seven private parties with live music this summer on Saturday night, and despite the months of uncertainty, she and her guests couldn’t stop smiling.

“I just think it’s such a special place because it’s run by Carolyn. She brings the heart of it and the softness and the sweetness,” Merrill said.

Turkanis met with the director of communities and neighborhoods in Salt Lake City in April. To keep her backyard get-togethers going, the two tried to come to an amicable arrangement. Instead of holding weekly events, she will organize seven private parties this summer as opposed to weekly performances, and she will still gladly take gratuitous donations without setting a minimum amount.

“I just have faith in government and hope that all good things can continue,” Turkanis said.

She declared in February that she wanted to host for 25 years. She claims, though, that she will stop when she feels the moment is appropriate, full of renewed optimism.

“I have many more years left in me and many more musicians to support, and this just brings me such joy and I just want to go until I can’t,” Turkanis said.


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