There's never a cooler time to be a descendant of a Utah pioneer than during the annual gargantuan Days of '47 celebration.
The main event is the parade, of course, which organizers claim is the third largest in the nation, following the Pasadena Tournament of Roses the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. July 24, with the processional starting at South Temple and State Street and ending at Liberty Park. (See route map.)
The festival as we know it was created in 1943, but the first parade and rodeo was held in 1849 in Salt Lake City by the new settlers, said Lois Harmon, who has been working with Days of '47 for almost 50 years. The celebration is about more than just a day off, but is a chance to remember those sturdy souls who said: "We're going to make this desert blossom like a rose," according to Harmon.
And while the festival is obviously linked to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Harmon said it's also about remembering people of different faiths and nationalities who settled in the valley around the same time, such as the Chinese who came to work on the railroad. "Under the organization's definition, a pioneer is anybody that came into the valley before the railroad in 1869," Harmon said. "Many of the pioneers were immigrants from England, Scandinavia, Sweden and Denmark. I can probably name as many non-LDS [people] as I have LDS friends who are involved in the organization and really believe in making it better every year."
Days of '47 Rodeo » The rodeo gets things started July 20-25 at its new location at The E Center, 3200 Decker Lake Dr., West Valley City. Highlights include "Whiplash," a monkey that rides a sheep dog, as well as Chuck Wagon Racing, and the traditional rodeo events where nationally ranked cowboys and cowgirls competing for more than $200,000 in prize money and more. Daily events start at 7 p.m.; tickets are $12-$40 (kids 14 and under and half price today and July 22) available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 801-325-SEAT.
Sunrise Service » At 7 a.m. July 24, the Sons of Utah Pioneers (Pioneer Chapter) present a sunrise service and flag ceremony at the LDS Church Tabernacle on Temple Square, 15 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City. The Deseret News Marathon begins at 5:30 a.m. at Big Mountain in Emigration Canyon; a 10K run beginning at 6 a.m. at Research Park, 500 S. Wakara Way; and a 5K beginning at 7 a.m. at the EnergySolutions Arena, 301 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
Parade » The Days of '47 Parade -- featuring floats, bands, horses, clowns and pioneers -- begins at South Temple and State Street at 9 a.m., with the processional traveling east to 200 East, turning south to 900 South and ending at Liberty Park. Bleacher seats at 200 E. 400 South are $7, available by calling the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers at 801-532-6479. Following the parade, there's a Native American Celebration at Liberty Park, which includes food, arts and craft booths and fireworks. For more information about the celebration, visit www.nacip.com. For information or a full schedule of Days of '47 events, visit www.daysof47.com or call 801-250-3890.
Here's a list of more Pioneer Day celebrations around the state:
Pioneer Heritage Days » This Is the Place Heritage Park, 2601 E. Sunnyside Ave., Salt Lake City, hosts two days of pioneer heritage fun, including a pie and watermelon eating contest, kids' parade, crafts, games, music and a flag-raising ceremony. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $8, $6 for kids. On July 25, the park presents Brother Brigham's Family Ball, at 7 p.m. in The Bowery, with dancing, music by the Blue Sage String Band and the debut of a new-old version of Brigham Young's family doughnut recipe. Pioneer dress is encouraged. Cost is $6, $4 for children, $10 per couple, $25 for a family (2 adults, 6 kids). For information, call 801-582-1847 or visit www.thisistheplace.org.
Concert » SCERA Shell Theater will host country artists Restless Heart and Collin Raye as part of its Pioneer Day festivities July 24 at 8 p.m. at the theater, 745 S. State St., Orem. Restless Heart is known for its '80s hits "The Bluest Eyes in Texas," "Fast Movin' Train" and "When She Cries." Raye's career began as a child when he and his brother Scott formed a country-rock group, Wray Brothers Band. (Raye adopted the stage name Bubb Wray.) His hits include "In This Life," "Little Rock" and "My Kind of Girl." Tickets are $15, $12 for kids, students and seniors, at 801-225-ARTS or www.scera.org.
Ogden Pioneer Days » Another big day of celebrating takes place in northern Utah, beginning with a 7 p.m. pancake breakfast at the Ogden Amphitheater, 2549 Washington Blvd., followed by Ogden's parade beginning 9 a.m. at 31st Street, traveling north on Washington Blvd., ending on 20th Street. The Pioneer Days Rodeo is at 7:30 p.m., which features Ogden's long-standing Miss Rodeo Utah pageant, followed by fireworks at the Pioneer Stadium, 668 17th St. David Osmond and the Osmond 2nd Generation will sing the national anthem at the rodeo. Tickets are $12, $6 for kids, available by calling 801-621-1696 or at www.ogdenpioneerdays.com.
American West Heritage Center » The center invites the public to its free Spirit of '47 Pioneer Day events at 4025 S. Hwy, 89-91, Wellsville. Activities include water games, horse-drawn wagon rides, train rides and a handcart dinner ($12, $8 for kids). For information, visit www.awhc.org or call 435-245-6050.
Logan Pioneer Day Celebration » Festivities will be held at Willow Park, 500 W. 700 South, Logan, beginning with a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast ($5, $2.50 for kids) as well as a fun run around the park. Other activities include a junior rodeo, Pioneer Day parade, music, wagon rides and fireworks. For information, call 801-716-9250.