From Aarne Heikkila, Associate Producer, Burbank Bureau
Driving along Highway 59 near the Utah/Arizona border, the community of Hildale doesn't particularly stand out.
But turn off the highway and drive down the city's main road and it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't any ordinary town.
"Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs are prominently displayed everywhere and large homes peer out over imposing concrete walls, making them look like heavily fortified compounds.
It's this secluded atmosphere that correspondent Jennifer London, cameraman Paul Thiriot and I came upon in Hildale and we sensed immediately that visitors like ourselves weren't especially welcome.
Oddly enough though, visitors were what brought us to Hildale.
You see, thanks in part to HBO's show, "Big Love" and the trial of fundamentalist church leader and Hildale native Warren Jeffs, curious tourists have been stopping by the tiny Utah town in hopes of catching a glimpse of polygamists going about their daily lives.
The manager of the only convenience store in Hildale told us he thinks 15-20% of the town's visitors come just because they're curious, often asking questions like, "is this THE Hildale" or "where is Warren Jeffs' house?"
Next door to the convenience store, a small sit-down restaurant has even sprung up, catering to the steady stream of visitors. The restaurant is called, appropriately enough, The Merry Wives Cafe.
If people are traveling to Hildale to catch a glimpse of something they wouldn't normally see, they won't be disappointed. Driving along the town's dusty streets, the first thing that strikes you are the homes.
Most of them are poorly constructed with rooms and sometimes entire wings added on in an adhoc manner to accommodate additional wives and children. Also, because it’s often the church and not the residents who own the property, yards are often unkept and gardens are frequently unattended to.
The residents there also dress differently from what you and I are used to. Long conservative dresses and braided hair seem to be the norm for most women and men are usually decked out in western style shirts and jeans.
Many we spoke to still aren't quite sure what to make of the uptick in tourism. Nobody likes to be gawked at or labeled an oddity, but residents are hopeful that the tourists who do stop by, come with an open mind and make an effort to learn more about the people and their beliefs.
But for now, the employees at the town's convenience store and restaurant have their eyes on summer season-- they expect it to be a busy one.
Catch this story Saturday on Today.