A home is shown in the Utah Parade of Homes.

Movies, bowling and miniature golf might seem like the standard Friday-night fare, but some Weber State University students are taking advantage of the Utah Parade of Homes as a departure from their regular recreational activities.

“My parents used to drag me to these things when I was younger, and I hated it,” said Steve Shepherd, a recent WSU graduate, “but now we’re actually going to be looking for a home of our own soon. What kind of colors to use, what kinds of things we can afford … we’re looking at all of that.”

Organizers of the 2011 Utah Parade of Homes set up planned tours of newly constructed homes throughout a specific regional area, then charge a universal entrance fee. Ticket-holders can tour through the homes at any time during the Parade of Homes, which usually lasts about two weeks. People coming to see the houses are encouraged to take pictures and write down ideas for decorating or designing their own homes.

Alisha Shepherd, Steve’s wife and herself a recent WSU graduate in music education, recommended the experience to students, even those who are years away from purchasing or building their own home.

“I’ve always had an interest in houses and decorating and floor plans,” she said, “so it’s fun to see what other people do, and see their ideas and steal them for ourselves.”

The Weber, Morgan and Davis Counties’ show ended Sunday night after a three-weekend run. Featuring 27 houses, the show was run by the Northern Wasatch Home Builders Association. The NWHBA’s aim is to encourage younger people to come see the homes, and even though the houses on the tour are largely out of the university student’s price range, visitors can take home their own ideas for what kind of building, renovating or decorating features they might want to try in their future homes.

“These days, the decision to build a new home is harder than ever before,” said NWHBA Chairman Corey Erdmann, who also owns Sand & Swirl Inc., an Ogden-based cultured marble- and solid-surface installer that contributes to many of the homes in the parade. “Market conditions have changed dramatically, and consumers are looking for innovative solutions to meet housing needs. The 2011 NWHBA Parade of Homes is designed to reflect these changes and includes homes featuring the latest in design.”

Of the 27 homes on the NWHBA Parade, three have more than 6,000 square feet of floor space. While most of the homes settle comfortably inside the 1,500-3,500 square foot range, visitors might tend to remember the larger homes and some of their irregular extravagance.

“In the million-dollar home we walked through, there was the theater room and the padded exercise room, and even in the decorating, the huge stone fireplace,” Shepherd said. “We liked looking at it, but it seemed unnecessary.”

A few of the homes have large home theaters decked out with recliners, and some have four- or five-car garages. One South Ogden home had a pool house that was itself as big as some of the smaller houses on the tour.

“We actually weren’t over-impressed this year,” Shepherd said. “There were a lot of nice houses, but in years past, there were a lot of fancier, more expensive houses. We did … get some ideas about the layout we like. One house we did like had really big windows, and that was a great pull for us. Our favorite was in Farmington. It wasn’t perfect, but we really liked the layout. It was really open in design and gave us ideas for what we want.”

Tours through Ogden, Weber and Davis Counties are now finished, but the 2011 Salt Lake Parade of Homes will be running from July 29 to August 14, and will feature a full-scale replica of the floating balloon house from the Pixar movie Up. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased online at www.utahparade.com. A showcase of homes through Park City and Heber Valley will also run from August 20 to September 5.

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