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Party Like A Pro

Task: Become a host worthy of a toast 

The Expert Salem native Kelsey Parcell Smith is a corporate event planner with a degree in experience design from BYU. She is currently an event planner for First Colony Mortgage as well as the marketing director for River Bridge Event Center in Spanish Fork. She got her start as the venue director at River Bridge where she learned everything that goes into cultivating killer parties, from big weddings to intimate get-togethers. Here are her top tips for creating events to remember.

WELCOME COMMITTEE 

Kelsey always thinks about how to make guests feel welcome. ìGoing to something alone, whether itís a game night or a bunco party, can be intimidating, so as a host you should do your best to give people opportunities to connect,î Kelsey says. She makes as many introductions as possible at the beginning of the party to get awkwardness out of the way so everyone can start chatting more comfortably. 

PRACTICAL PREP 

Donít forget about all the practical prep tasks like getting good background music going, having great food and drinks out, and adjusting the room layout to feel open and inclusive. ìI also love incorporating scent into any event with candles and diffusers,î Kelsey says. 

CULTURAL HALL CREW 

We live in Utah, which means non-party planners are planning plenty of parties and functions for the local church congregation. Cue the overwhelm! Kelsey advises taking your planning back to the goal of the event ó connection, teaching, or celebrating. Then, focus on teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. ìIf you feel like you donít know what you are doing, utilize the talents of your team,î Kelsey says. ìGet someone who is good at decorating to head that up, and then find someone who is comfortable bringing food together.î 

SOIREE SUCCESS 

The mark of a successful soiree is different for each one. One of Kelseyís favorites was a ìVendor Friendsgivingî for business owners in the wedding industry. ìThe purpose was to emphasize community over competition and we had an hour where we circled through rotations and had vulnerable conversations about areas of our business where we needed help, as well as chatting about where we were doing great,î Kelsey explains. 

WHIMSICAL WOW FACTOR 

Balloon arches have been having their day in the sun for years now and Kelsey still believes they are on the rise. ìI love balloon installs,î Kelsey says. ìThey are an easy way to create a wow moment for guests without taking up a lot of space,î she says. She encourages hosts to find a great balloon artist who can make it look classy and chic. One of her local favorites is Balloon Boyz. Other high-impact decor options include lighting displays, interactive art and experiential food moments, like finishing a dish table-side, whether itís freshly mixed guacamole or torching the creme br˚lÈe.

PARTING GIFTS 

Whether itís just a few friends for dinner or a wedding with 300 guests, favors tie it all up with a bow. Some of Kelseyís favorites have been custom watercolor paintings, potted succulents and personalized olive oil bottles.

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Break The Ice

Task: Take the plunge on the latest health craze

The Expert You might know Mitch Mathews as the BYU wide receiver who gave us that iconic Hail Mary touchdown win against Nebraska. Itís been almost 10 years since that moment, and these days he is focusing his drive and energy on entrepreneurial endeavors and raising two little girls with his wife, Madie. One of the things Mitch has done to stay in shape after his sports career is embracing the practice of cold plunging. The trend is a form of cryotherapy that involves immersing yourself in cold water to gain health and wellness benefits. In college, he did ice baths for recovery, but these days he gets iced up for mental and physical benefits. 

GET INSPIRED

ìI got interested in cold therapy after I did a crazy excursion to Poland with 10 buddies to meet Wim Hof,î Mitch explains. Wim Hof, also known as ìThe Ice Man,î is an extreme athlete, motivational speaker and Guinness World Record holder. ìWe stayed at his house, did 10-minute cold plunges up to our necks, hiked half naked in sub-20 degree weather, and lived!î Mitch says. You donít need to go all the way to Poland to get pumped up, but a few Wim Hof videos on YouTube just might have you craving some cold therapy. 

HOW COLD ARE WE TALKING? 

ìThe science says between 35-50 degrees is a great range, and 11 minutes a week is optimal to get all the mental and physical benefits,î Mitch explains. Some people start out at 60 degrees, which is colder than you might think when you consider that the average temperature of swimming pool water is in the high 70s. 

BUT WHY, MITCH? 

According to Mitch, freezing your buns off on purpose is not just an exercise in mental toughness. ìI feel like it launches me into peak energy and clears brain fog, boosts immunity and reduces swelling,î he says. The research on cold water therapy is still emerging, so there is no way of saying for certain it does ëX-Y-Z,í but many personal anecdotes describe muscle recovery, mental clarity and mood boosting benefits. 

COLD, CALM AND COLLECTED 

ìI tell people to start with 50 degrees and then work down,î Mitch says. ìTry to slide into the water without freaking out. Then do four-second exhales and a big inhale. This helps you calm down and helps fight the urge to gasp for air. Conquer the water!î Mitchís internal dialogue is all about staying calm in the chaos. ìThe water is chaos and it wants to make you freak out,î he says ìBut if you can learn to stay calm in the chaos, itís a good metaphor for lots of things in life.î 

EASY DOES IT 

To stay safe, Mitch suggests not going longer than 10 minutes and not cold plunging alone until you have plenty of experience. In fact, freezing your face off in the group is his favorite way to do it. ìThe best way to cold plunge is in a group,î he says. ìAnd then get in a sauna afterwards.î 

START HERE 

Mitch suggests warming up to the idea of being ice cold with a few minutes of cold water in the shower, or standing outside without your coat and deliberately breathing in some cold air.

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Polish Your Porch

Task: Elevate your entry with perfect porch decor 

The expert Mapletonís Jamie Kinross is an interior design content creator with a passion for all things decor and DIY. She loves styling spaces for clients as the one-woman show behind Jamie Lee Designs Co., as well as beautifying her own home ó project by project. Listen up for some styling secrets to pep up your porch! 

@jamielee_designs

SIZE IT RIGHT 

Get out those wreaths and fluff them up! But how big should they be? ìYour wreath should be approximately two-thirds the width of your door and most standard wreaths are 24 to 26 inches in size,î Jamie says. When it comes to attaching them, Jamie prefers command hooks instead of over-the-door hangers for a cleaner look. 

LAYER LOVE 

Layering your doormat is an easy way to add texture and color to your homeís entry. ìI love the timeless look of black and white checkered rugs under a doormat,î Jamie says.

MAKE IT MATCH 

Jamie says the most common mistake people make with styling their porch is forgetting about it altogether! ìThe porch is the first impression of your home and should be decorated as an extension of your home,î she says. ìMake it as unique and spunky or as timeless and tasteful as your interior.î If you have craftsman vibes going on, Jamie says warm and maximalist items are the ticket. For something modern, incorporating more masculine and larger-scale elements is the move. 

PERFECT YOUR PLANT GAME 

When it comes to adding greenery to your porch space, Jamie loves faux plants for a handful of reasons. ìNot all porches allow for the right amount of sunlight or enough coverage for real plants,î Jamie explains. ìItís also easy to forget about caring for your outdoor plants, and replacing them year after year gets expensive!î  

ON THE HOUSE

James says one of the easiest ways to take your entry from builder-grade to beautiful and boujee is by swapping out your house numbers for a larger-scale version. Other easy upgrades with big impact include adding premium light fixtures and door hardware. And if you add some great seating, you can sit outside and enjoy your styling success. ìAdding seating to your porch adds interest, charm and curb appeal,î she says. 

GET LIT 

Lighting your entry well makes it warm and welcoming. Recessed lighting is not only practical but pretty, and wiring in sconces and pendants is a great way to add oomph. For seasonal touches, Jamie loves utilizing battery and solar-powered string lights and lanterns. 

HYPE THE HOLIDAYS 

When the holiday season rolls around, Jamie always does these things to bring festive fun to her entry. 

ï Swap out regular doormat and wreath for holiday versions. 

ï Change up greenery for seasonal foliage. 

ï Pumpkins for fall, floating witch hats for Halloween, and trees, bells, and twinkle lights for Christmas. 

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Flower Power

Task: Get your partner the perfect petals 

The expert Andrea Robertson of Flamingo Friday Floral Co. is the queen of bold blooms. Andrea is a boutique floral artist, and she loves creating from her home studio in south Utah County. Whether it is a large wedding installation or a custom order, Andrea curates botanical beauty. Here are tips for how to get your special someone flowers they will adore and remember for years to come. 

@thefloralflamingoco

JUST DO IT 

ìThe biggest mistake I see is guys forgetting the special occasion all together,î Andrea jokes. ìBut also, trying to pick something last minute or not knowing her favorite flowers or colors makes it hard, too.î Andrea advises putting in your floral order a week in advance for a typical arrangement, and up to three weeks early if you want something special. 

PUT IT IN NEUTRAL 

If you have zero idea what your girlfriend or wife wants, Andrea says there are a few varieties that are pretty widely loved. ìMost women like hydrangeas, peonies, ranunculus and tulips,î she says. ìAnd if you arenít sure on color, itís always wise to stay neutral with whites or light pinks.î 

LET’S TALK MONEY HONEY 

Larger custom arrangements will run you around $150 to $200. ìThat amount will get you something large and gorgeous,î Andrea explains. But $20 can get the job done, too. ìYou can always run to Trader Joeís and get a couple bunches of tulips and hydrangeas,î Andrea says. 

SHOWER HER WITH FLOWERS 

If you really want to go all out, here is the plan. ìSee if she follows any florist on social media and reach out to them,î Andrea says. ìBoutique florists like myself thrive on fun custom orders.î Another way to make it special is to make it sentimental. If your first date was a hike with wildflowers, ask the florist to incorporate wildflowers to bring back that memory. 

STAYINí ALIVE

The most beautiful blooms in the world can wilt before they take her breath away if you are not careful! ìDonít keep them in a hot car ever,î Andrea says. ìBut other than that, most flowers will be OK without water for a couple hours. Then, once you are home, snip off the bottom tip and get them in water ASAP.î 

TAKE IT OR LEAF IT  

If your love doesnít love flowers, go for a plant. They are still a thoughtful gesture and plants last longer. Andreaís fave is a snake plant. ìThey are excellent air purifiers, really low maintenance, and affordable,î she says. 

FLORAL SUPPORT 

Being a florist means you get to be part of peopleís happiest days of their life, but you also get to be a bright spot on challenging days, too. Once, Andrea included red roses as part of her wedding pickup order, even though the wedding she was working on didnít include red in their color palette. ìThe next day my friend messaged me about getting an arrangement to take to the cemetery for her mom. At the end she mentioned her momís favorite color was red, and I knew right then why I bought those red roses!î

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Fair Play

Task: Be a good sports parent 

The Expert Utah Valley University athletics mental health specialist Kevin ìDoKî Woods was brought on staff back in 2018 specifically to help the schoolís student-athletes manage the pressures of competing in Division 1 athletics. DoK played basketball at UVU from 2007-2013 and graduated with a behavioral science degree before going on to earn a masterís degree in counseling, sports and health psychology from Chicagoís Adler University. Beyond DoKís impressive credentials, he has the emotional intelligence and people skills that make him a trusted advocate for student-athletes at UVU. 

START SLOW 

This might come as a surprise to few people, but DoK says one of the most common and worst mistakes parents can make when it comes to their childrenís sports is putting high expectations on performance outcomes too early. ìPushing too early and not allowing the child to develop deliberate play can harm the childís enjoyment of the sport and lead to early retirement,î he says. ìThe enjoyment of playing should be what ignites the competition and longevity.î 

DRILL DOWN ON DISCIPLINE

Instead of putting the focus on achievement and ìwinningî from the outset, DoK suggests focusing first on developing discipline and consistency with practice and training. ìDiscipline reveals the commitment one has to their dreams, before that dream is established,î he explains. 

COACH CONFLICTS 

What do you do when your kid comes home complaining about a coach? First, listen and let your kid vent. ìWhen you give your kids a safe space to speak on the issue and about their frustrations, it will give you the brave space where you can provide feedback and suggestions,î DoK says. And when you do provide guidance, always keep it centered on the childís efforts and what he or she can control. 

LET’S BE DIRECT 

When an issue does need to be resolved with a coach, DoK suggests empowering your child to speak to their coach by themselves to set expectations and goals. ìThis teaches them not to assume things, but to be open to uncomfortable conversations that can lead to collaboration in the future,î he explains. DoK believes that letting kids practice communicating with coaches and leaders directly from a young age teaches them important life lessons and helps them become independent and self-directed adults. 

TACKLING TOUGH CONVERSATIONS 

But what about when a parent does need to step in? DoK says that these interactions always go better when the parent has invested some time and effort into establishing rapport with the coach beforehand. And then take these tips to heart:

ï ìRespect the coach as a human being who is providing leadership and guidance to your child through sports. Approach them with a willingness to learn, and have consideration for them as the decision maker.î

ï ìBe prepared with specific questions, concerns or film to provide more context for the coach. Narrow down questions and donít ask something broad like, ëHow do I get my kid to play more?í A better thing to say might be, ëI understand there are different levels of talent here on the team; Iíd like to know what my child can focus on to achieve a higher level of play.íî

ï ìDo not compare kids. When you leave other kids out of the conversation and only focus on your child, it keeps the conversation from getting defensive for the coach. Remember that each player is a piece on the board and the coach needs to figure out which pieces work together well.î 

WHEN TO SWITCH THINGS UP 

DoK says at the end of a sports year or season, if you have had a bad experience or are considering switching up your team or program, ask yourself these questions: 

ï Is my athlete being treated with respect?

ï Is my athlete being taught?

ï Is my athlete given a chance to perform?

ï Is my athlete enjoying the experience?

If the answers to most or all of the questions is no, consider making a change. 

EMPOWER + ENCOURAGE 

OK, enough talk about conflict! What can parents do to be supportive? ìBe present as often as you can, be interested in their sport, and have fun investigating ways to improve performance,î he says. ìDiscuss diet, sleep and goals. Encourage the fun of the sport. Praise them when they handle a difficult moment well, and praise their willingness to take on challenges.î

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Toy Tailors

Task: Find the right fit when it comes to gifts for kids

The Experts Sisters Mandy Merrell and Melody Craig are the experts behind ìThe Toy Testing Sisters.î These toy connoisseurs share information on all the latest and greatest toys, as well as detailed and age-specific toy guides. In short, they wade through the thousands of toys on the market and tell you which ones are worth your money. Mandy lives in northern Utah and Melody is in Highland, and they have five kids between them to help out with all the testing/playing. @toytestingsisters

STAYING POWER 

Yes, you can just stroll the aisle at Walmart and pick up whatever is the shiniest and biggest, but youíll miss some real gems. ìWe love being able to help parents and grandparents know about unique toys that will last and get played with forever,î Mandy says. 

OPEN INVITATION 

Mandy and Melodyís toy guides are often grouped by age range, and they have found that for toddlers ages 2 to 4, itís all about ìopen-ended play.î Items that follow this philosophy encourage creativity and unstructured exploration. ìFor this group, we love acrylic blocks, a nice wooden playhouse, and play couches,î Mandy says. ìAnother great idea is to invest in a silk. Silks are getting more popular and you will be blown away at the things your kids will think of to do with them. My kids love to make up games with them like ëthe floor is lava,í setting up play scenes, and dress up.î 

ENTERTAIN THE BRAIN

For ages 5 to 7, Mandy and Melody recommend items that engage the brain with problem solving, imagination and creating. ìIn this range, itís all about building, whether itís a race track or pretend-play items,î Mandy says. 

HERE WE GROW

Mandy says between ages 8 to 10, things get a little more challenging for toy buyers. Some of her favorite options for big kids include a 3-D printer, Beblox (a lego alternative), marble run (Trestle Toys is a great brand), baking items and jewelry kits. 

NAVIGATING THE PHASE MAZE 

Most kids go through phases where they get obsessed with a specific TV show or movie and want every toy to be based around that theme, whether itís Paw Patrol or Mario. But Mandy reminds us that all those phases come to an end. ìI always suggest that if your child is into a specific character, buy them smaller items like figurines of the character rather than something big like a large dollhouse with that theme,î Mandy says. ìOften, those bigger items that are branded specifically donít have the quality you want.î 

FAMILY FIRST 

ìEspecially in Utah, where we have lots of kids, I love recommending family toys like a swing or a play couch that works for all ages,î Mandy says. ìThese things take more investment, but you will get your moneyís worth because everyone will play with them for years.î 

AROUND TOWN 

The Toy Testing Sisters love shopping local, and some of their favorite Utah-based shops are Teton Toys (located in Lehi and Orem), Blickenstaffs (Provo) and Over The Moon (Bountiful). As far as Utah-based toy companies, they love Hello Sugarhouseís blocks and wooden toys (find them on IG at @hellosugarhouse). 

GET OUTSIDE! 

Most parents are trying to find ways to get their kids off screens and into the backyard. A cool toy like a zipline or a mud kitchen can help. ìGetting a nice, solid-wood mud kitchen is fantastic for encouraging outdoor play,î Mandy suggests. ìAnd it will last long enough that your grandkids can play with it someday.î 

PARTY TRICK 

When your child gets invited to a birthday party for a neighborhood or school friend and you are not sure what to get, Mandy has a couple go-to items that are general and gender neutral. ìI love picking out a fun game and pairing it with a cute treat or a NeeDoh Nice Cube.î If you are wondering what in the world a NeeDoh Nice Cube is, allow us: Itís a cool new sensory toy that you can squish and squash and it goes back to its original square shape. You get the fun factor of slime ó without the carpet-ruining risks. Youíre welcome.

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Tom Holmoe

2024 UTAH VALLEY MAGAZINE PERSON OF THE YEAR

THIS IS Y

Athletic Director Tom Holmoe changed the trajectory of BYU sports — and Utah Valley’s nationwide perception — by roaring the Cougars into the Big 12. 

By Jeanette Bennett & Greg Bennett

We met Tom Holmoe for our cover shoot at the northwest gates of LaVell Edwards Stadium. The concrete cathedral to all-things BYU was a far cry from its bustling Saturday nights with 60,000 Cougar Tail-eaters screaming like the blue sky is falling. It’s December, just a couple weeks before Christmas and 12 days after the heart-breaking 40-34 loss to Oklahoma State.

But without the vendors, marching bands and television cameras, Tom still seems at home in the stadium — the same venue where he finished with 13 career interceptions as a defensive back for the Cougars in the early 1980s. Our magazine team moved to Portal H (for “Holmoe”) and set up for our first shot.

   “I like to be in the stadium when it’s empty,” Tom says. “It’s a good spot for me. It’s sacred. I think well here. I look up and see those names and the bowls the team has played in, and good thoughts come to me. I can see the long-game.”

   Good thoughts — especially amid tough decisions — have been a hallmark of Tom’s almost 19 years at the helm of the BYU Cougars as athletic director, and his crowning achievement of securing BYU’s invitation to the Big 12 has earned him Utah Valley Magazine’s Person of the Year 2024.

Open Arms

   Tom recently finished six years as a gospel doctrine teacher in his Provo ward, which is seven minutes away from BYU campus. But he wasn’t a member of the LDS faith when he moved to Provo in the 1980s as a player who was recruited by Fred Whittingham, father of Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham (who was also Tom’s teammate). 

   Tom’s play clock tAook him to a career in the NFL with the ‘49ers where he earned three Super Bowl rings as a player during his seven-year career. Later, he won the Super Bowl as a coach. He entered the transfer portal and became the head coach at Cal, but when the whistle blew on that position he found himself unemployed. 

   “LaVell and I had stayed in touch, and he asked me to come and take a fundraising job for the athletic department,” Tom says. “My daughter had just been accepted as a freshman here, so we were excited. Football hadn’t always been synonymous with family time, so I decided to come to BYU and ‘chill out’ in this new position off the field.” 

   Tom didn’t plan to sit in that seat for long. He thought he would catch his breath and stay close to the game while he found his next opportunity. 

   “I would drive down the hill on 1230 North from my office in the old Alumni House, and I would see the team practicing. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t coaching football!” Tom recalls.“I learned that if you’re always looking at what the next opportunity might be, then you won’t do well in the opportunity you currently have. I decided I had to get into my job and back into the BYU community. It was a great experience to get to know donors and other fans who are deeply invested in BYU.”

Challenge Accepted

   On March 1, 2005, Tom moved seats again to become the new BYU athletic director with a daunting first task — take two athletic departments and turn them into one.

   Before Tom was hired, BYU fielded separate men’s and women’s athletic departments. The men’s department was led by Val Hale. The women answered to the legendary Elaine Michaelis. Each department operated independently of the other (Texas and Tennessee were the only other major college programs set up similarly at the time). Marrying the two departments was fraught with potential challenges.

   “President (Cecil O.) Samuelson charged me to combine the departments,” Tom says. “I had to be the one who made the necessary decisions with full conviction. I’m not saying every decision I made was right, but every one was the best I could do with the information I had at the time.”

   Next on the docket, hiring a new football coach and a new men’s basketball coach. Again, Tom relied on his ability to read a situation, get the best information possible and stand behind his decision with conviction. The scoreboard would later support his conviction as he hired future legends Bronco Mendenhall and Dave Rose.

   “Those hires might have been in the top three decisions I’ve ever made,” Tom says.

   This now 63-year-old’s ability to hire the right person for the job is noteworthy. In a time where head football coaches last as long as a car lease, Tom has only worked with two football coaches (Bronco Mendenhall and Kalani Sitake) and two basketball coaches (Dave Rose and Mark Pope).

   By comparison, Tom is on his third university president.

Independently Speaking

   No decision over Tom’s 19 years has been as much of a minefield as the move out of the Mountain West Conference in 2010 and into independence in football (while the majority of other sports participated in the West Coast Conference.)

   “I felt great about going independent, but I knew it was going to be fraught with issues,” he says. “But we had to make a decision that would put us on the road. It’s not going to shoot us down the road, but it put us on the road to where we wanted to be.”

   There were whisperings and discussions throughout the 10+ years of football independence — each with its pros and cons, dollars and cents — but it was never about money. It was about access for fans and quality of competition for players.

   “I remember President Samuelson saying to me, ‘If money is our No. 1 reason to do this, then I don’t want to have one thing to do with it,’” Tom says. “Money wasn’t the first reason, but I had to articulate the potential financial outcomes as part of the decision.” 

Opportunity Knocks

   BYU’s patience paid off when, in September 2021, it received the invitation to join the Big 12 and join the blue bloods of college athletics. The landmark change gave Tom and his colleagues long-sought opportunities for hyped-up exposure, easier access for fans and an opportunity for players to compete against the best.

   Tom is satisfied with the Cougars’ record during Season One in the new conference, even though that’s not his measuring stick.

   “The impact of joining the Big 12 remains to be seen,” he says. “The conference is tough and that’s what we asked for. If we can keep the focus on our student-athletes and their growth in all areas of their lives, the rest of it will come.”

   Tom notes that, despite missing out on a bowl game this season, the team is better because of what it learned from playing the level of competition in the Big 12. 

   “We’re going to get punched in the nose,” Tom says. “We’re going to take a knee and then stand back up and keep going. We’re going to get bloodied. It’s going to be hard. But, if you’re looking at the long play, this is great for BYU athletics. The short play is tough, but as athletic director I am looking at the long play.”

And the Credit Goes To

   While an invitation to a major conference is a complicated, nuanced endeavor, there’s little doubt how Tom is viewed by others in his profession. Two nights before our photo shoot, Tom was named the 2023 recipient of the John L. Toner Award from the National Football Foundation, which honors outstanding athletics directors “who have demonstrated superior administrative abilities, especially in the area of college football.”

   Despite the awards dotting the shelves in Tom’s office and Provo home, he considers himself just a role player on a larger team.

   “Growing up, I was always a role player,” he says. “I’ve never been the fastest or most athletic guy, but I knew how to go in and do what the coaches asked me to do and complement the players around me. That’s how I feel now. Every day is different, and that’s what I love about my job. Everyday, I find my role and do it. I don’t let a day go by without thinking about how to make a contribution.”