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Spectators and entrants for Monday's Days of '47 Parade had the same advice for would-be participants: start early.

One float coordinator, Matt Dickamore, said his group began construction in March after months of design planning. The work initially took place on weekends, before accelerating to a near-daily schedule as they rushed to finish before last week's parade preview in Sandy.

"Tuesday through Saturday, basically, is what it ended up being," Dickamore said. "I'd probably say hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of [work] hours."

Dickamore said his float crew included a core group of 10 people, with another 40 chipping in to prepare the entry by the Woods Cross Utah Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The end result was an elaborate underwater design featuring a submarine, a bubble-and-smoke-emitting volcano and dozens of sea creatures.

"To actually see it here on the street, ready to go down the parade route, it's a huge payoff," he said.

While the parade's drivers, marchers and performers made final preparations, its devoted audience was groggily waking up in makeshift camps or hunting for empty space along the increasingly crowded 2-mile route.

Brent Heninger claimed his location at South Temple and 200 South at 8 p.m. Sunday. His setup included two hammocks — at heights of roughly 4 feet and 10 feet — strung between a tree and light pole that made for a great vantage point but did little to improve the sleeping conditions, he said.

"We bring some kabobs and we do a Denny's run at about 2 o'clock," he said. "You've got to be a little crazy to spend the night here."

The annual event — Utah's largest parade with more than 100 entires and sprawling crowds — is part of daylong series of activities for Utah's Pioneer Day, which commemorates the arrival of Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Among the events held Monday were the Deseret News Marathon, which culminated along the parade route, a sunrise service at Assembly Hall on Temple Square and the final day of the Days of '47 Rodeo, which found a new home in a recently built arena at Utah State Fair Park.

The annual Native American Celebration in the Park Powwow also was held Monday at Liberty Park — the end point of the parade — but was not affiliated with Days of '47 events.

In addition to colorful floats and marching bands, the parade showcased dignitaries like Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah; Salt Lake City's Mayor Jackie Biskupski and police Chief Mike Brown; and Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the governing First Presidency of the LDS Church.

There also was no shortage of clowns, city pageant winners and handcart-pushing pioneers waving to the crowds lining the curbs and filling apartment and office balconies along South Temple and 200 South. `

On the Farmington Utah Stake's float, Lori Farnsworth sat in pioneer garb looking through a 10-foot-long model telescope at a revolving model of the solar system. The float's design placed Farnsworth out over the road in front, facing backward, forcing her to trust that the driver — her husband — would keep a safe distance from obstacles.

"It's a little scary," Farnsworth said. "It does make me a little nervous that he'll run me into something."

(Another entry from the Murray Utah Stake also boasted a large telescope, albeit one that let its user face forward from the relative safety of the float's center.)

Farnsworth said her husband, Jason Farnsworth, managed the bulk of construction for their parade entry, with help from two friends. They set a goal of finishing in early June so they could enjoy the summer season and were able to make that deadline.

"There are still people, as of yesterday, still putting their floats together," Jason Farnsworth said. "I'm glad that we're here. I hope that we make it through it, and I'll be glad when we're finally done."

Twitter: @bjaminwood