There was a hot time in the old town the whole time the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists was meeting in Salt Lake City, June 27-29, Thursday through Saturday. Temperatures soared into triple digits, breaking records nearly every day in the city Brigham Young and 148 of his Mormon followers (arriving in 72 wagons) founded in 1847, making it officially an “old town.”

AAEC 2013The outside temperature was matched, briefly, on Saturday with occasionally heated rhetoric as the subject of plagiarism became the focus of the program and the ensuing business meeting. Otherwise, session topics ranged peacefully from crowdfunding to the incendiary nature of political cartoons, from Thomas Nast to the opportunities of Internet cartooning, from Muhammad to Mormon underwear. The profession’s most revered practitioner, Pat Oliphant, was on hand at a reception held in his honor, and another legendary editoonist, Herblock, starred in a 90-minute screening of a new documentary on his legacy.

Evening entertainments included a salty edition of Todd Zuniga’s “Cartoonist Death March” and the Cartoons and Cocktails Gala Benefit at which original cartoons were auctioned off with the revenues earmarked for AAEC coffers. Afternoons were free of programming to allow for sight-seeing and other carryings-on.

Host and program deviser, the Salt Lake Tribune’s Pat Bagley (aided and abetted by Prez Matt Wuerker), also arranged for a bus tour of the city and for art workshops conducted by AAEC members for young aspiring artist/cartoonists. In the continuing effort to make the profession more visible to the world outside the inky-fingered fraternity, many sessions were open to the public for a small admission fee. And the convention venue roved around the neighborhood of the headquarters hotel, the Little America, to the Leonardo art museum and activity center to the auditorium at the city’s main library.

Early estimates peg registered attendance at about 75, of which 45 or so were fully-paying cartoonists; the rest, speakers, spouses, guests, donors, and volunteers. Local residents also attended the sessions open to them, turning out in notably large number for Saturday morning’s “Satire and the Sacred: From Muhammad to Mormon Underwear” and the auction that evening.

The goodie bag issued to registrants as they checked in contained, in addition to the usual heap of helpful items (sketchpad and program booklet and list of preregistered personages), several items designed to acquaint them quickly with this year’s convention city: a map (comically rendered by Bagley, highlighting sites and establishments of the elbow-bending sort), a stick-on bee (Utah is the Bee State), a bottle of Polygamy Porter (motto: “Why have just one!”), and a shot glass bearing the emblem of Five Wives Vodka.

Five Wives, introduced into the Utah market in December 2011, created a stir a year later when its makers, Ogden’s Own Distillery, sought to fill orders from Idaho, the governmental apparatus of which had determined that Five Wives would not be allowed through the state’s liquor system. Apparently, quipped Ogden’s, “Idaho didn’t like the quirky label.” Banning Five Wives created a “media firestorm” in USA Today, Time, CNN and Fox. Faced with a law suit, Idaho reversed its decision.

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