Utah Celebrates Pioneer Day in Style
by Joel Carson
Wednesday, July 24 is one of Utah’s most celebrated holidays. If you’ve made Utah your home for more than a year, you already know this. If you don’t, you’re missing out! “Pioneer Day” commemorates the entry of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ second President Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The celebration extends for a week and is often referred to as “The Days of 47.”
Although it might have been a religious holiday of sorts in the beginning, Pioneer Day is commonly celebrated by people of all faiths who recognize the strength of character and physical endurance required to settle a desert land that, to many early explorers, seemed doomed to remain a barren land of dust and sage brush.
In truth, what some might have perceived as a destitute valley, others saw as a haven for their religious freedom. The Mormon pioneers proclaimed the area we now know as Salt Lake City to be their homeland. It featured just the type of isolation they were looking for after leaving their settlement in Nauvoo, IL to escape religious persecution. The first Pioneer Day was celebrated in 1849 with a parade, music, speeches, games and more. The tradition lives on. I’m thankful every day to call Utah home.
Get Involved in Pioneer Day 2013
Most Utah communities celebrate Pioneer Day in their own ways. Some enjoy huge parades, fireworks, competitions, and endless food with wild fanfare. Others love the simplicity of watching children ride bicycles adorned with crepe paper and little buckaroos on horseback trod down American Main streets.
Children write essays about what it means to be a pioneer, or about what it must have been like to travel hundreds of miles during the winter to reach their final destination. In fact, pioneers come to Utah every single day. Rarely in these times do they ride in on a buckboard with a wagon-load of treasured possessions; and, the original pioneers did a pretty good job of getting this party started. However, each day we see the works of pioneers in technology, industry, commerce, education, medicine, development and globalization. Now that is a good reason to celebrate.
‘Wagons Ho,’ Parade Begins at 9 a.m., July 24
The Days of ’47 KSL 5 Parade is one of the oldest in the U.S. The Salt Lake City parade begins at 9 a.m. Let me emphasize that if you want to get a good spot to view it, you might want to arrive at 6 a.m. to spread out your blankets and coolers and lawn chairs. For those pioneering parade go-ers who camp overnight, I raise my cowboy hat to you.
The parade will start at South Temple and State Street then go east to 200 East. It will turn south to 900 South, then turn east to Liberty Park at 600 East. Don’t want to brave the heat and crowds? You can actually see it on television as it will be broadcast on KSL Channel 5.
Preview Parade Floats
You can preview all of the parade floats July 22 and 23 at the South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S State Street in Sandy, Utah, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. No tickets are required.
What Would a Western Holiday be Without a Rodeo?
The Days of ’47 Komatsu Equipment Rodeo is still running and starts each night at 6:30 p.m. at the Energy Solutions Arena, 301 South Temple, on July 22, 23 and 24.
Tickets are on sale now at the EnergySolutions Arena Box Office. Monday is Family Night with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. Tuesday honors service members with “Military Night.” Wednesday is appropriately dubbed, “Pioneer Night.”
There are so many activities going on throughout the state to commemorate Pioneer Day that it would be impossible to list them all here (or at least darn hard to do). Go to your favorite search engine online, type in your Utah community’s name and add “Pioneer Day Activities.” You’ll be amazed at all of the amazing events planned in every region of the state.
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