Growing crowds that greet missionaries with balloons, banners jam Utah airports

IndustriesAssociated Press

Most returning Mormon missionaries are greeted at the airport by family, friends and an occasional cardboard cutout of anyone who couldn't make it.

Lately, the homecomings are more elaborate with professional videographers, balloons, banners, flash mobs and marriage proposals.

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The revelry sometimes is too much for airport security to handle without calling Salt Lake City police, The Daily Herald reported last week ( ).

Airport officials are trying to figure out the best way to deal with the crowds of hundreds of people that form about twice a week, blocking escalators and the baggage claim area while clogging parking lots, said Barbara Gamm with the Salt Lake City Department of Airports.

"It's been very intense lately with increased numbers," she said. "We work hard with this local phenomenon."

Gamm said airport officials are including a larger greeting area in plans for an airport expansion that should be complete in five years.

Two years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the age for missionaries to 18 for men and 19 for women. Airports, in turn, are seeing a big increase in the number of homecoming parties.

Some airport homecoming videos have received more than 150,000 views online.

Ann Chumbley Snider said she flies into the Salt Lake City airport every four to five weeks to take care of her mom and also has a daughter who is serving a mission. It's heartwarming, she said, to see families welcome their children but also frustrating to wade through the crowds to get her bags.

"I wish there was an area for these homecomings to take place," she said. "It is so great, and I don't want to sound negative, but the area is just so crowded and congested that it makes it crazy."

Steve Asay said the crowds were relatively small when his family gathered at the Salt Lake City airport to greet his son who was returning from a mission.

"But there is no experience like seeing your child coming home after their mission," he said. "There is so much love in the air you cannot imagine."


Information from: The Daily Herald,