Unique American Celebrations: Utah's Pioneer Day

On July 24th, most Americans go about their day, enjoying it like any other in summer. However, for many Utahns, it's a date carrying profound significance. 

Pioneer Day celebrates the arrival of the first Mormon pioneers, led by Brigham Young. These brave travelers navigated harsh, unknown terrain with unwavering determination and steadfastness. They would become the founding members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  

Many observances and Pioneer Day celebrations mark the popularity of this exciting day. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ enjoy live music, rodeos, marching bands, and a Pioneer Day parade. In fact, some believe the celebration scale rivals Independence Day, at least in Utah. Let's explore more about the origins of this beloved holiday that showcases America's broad and diverse history!  

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What is Pioneer Day in Utah? What Does it Celebrate?  

Despite common myths, Pioneer Day doesn't celebrate Utah's founding or the first time Brigham Young stepped foot in the Salt Lake Valley. It actually marks the moment Young chose to settle in what's now Salt Lake City, famously declaring, "This is the right place." This day reflects more than a key historical moment; it celebrates the determination that shaped Utah. 

Statue in "This is the Place" Heritage Park Statue in "This is the Place" Heritage Park
Statue in "This is the Place" Heritage Park

What is the History Behind Pioneer Day?  

The first settlers of Utah decided to make their journey westward following the tragic murder of their prophet and founder, Joseph Smith. Facing persecution and riots in Illinois, these early Mormans united under the leadership of Brigham Young. They came to Utah for a new sanctuary where they could practice their religion.  

The pioneers traveled over 1,300 miles, with many pulling handcarts through the punishing wilderness. They traveled through the Rocky Mountains, braving meetings with Native Americans and wild animals in search of their promised land. The group maintained their morale, viewing the struggle as a right of passage. 

On July 24, 1847, 148 Mormons, including Brigham Young, entered the Salt Lake City Valley. The pioneers chose to stay in the area since not many other white men were interested in settling there, and the low population was attractive for a group who recently faced persecution. There were also few Native Americans in the area and great potential to grow due to fertile farmland and the Great Salt Lake. 

Over the next 20 years, thousands of Mormons made their way westward, making Utah their official home. "This is the Place" Heritage Park was built to commemorate the brave pioneers who risked everything for religious freedom.  

What are Some Common Traditions and Activities During Pioneer Day in Utah? 

Pioneer Day offers so many exciting activities and fun for Utahns. Whether you’re a practicing Mormon or not, the festivities are great for family-friendly outings and spending time with friends. Keep reading to discover common traditions used to celebrate Pioneer Day.  

Attend a Festival/ Fireworks Show 

Throughout the state, you can find festivals and fireworks shows celebrating Pioneer Day. Bryce Canyon is a favorite destination, as it hosts a rodeo that residents come from far and wide to watch. Utah’s top riders saddle up and take to the ring to try and score the best time and win the coveted jackpot prize. Once night falls, guests can enjoy a breathtaking fireworks show that rivals any 4th of July display.  

Watch the Days of ‘47 Parade 

The Days of ‘47 Parade is the most anticipated event of Pioneer Day. Named after the non-profit organization responsible for many Pioneer Day activities, the parade boasts dozens of ornately decorated floats designed to honor different aspects of the pioneers settling in Salt Lake. 

Residents can enter and build their own float or watch the parade as bright colors and smiling faces pass by. Guests are sure to see horses, bands, clowns, and more, making it a fun event for the entire family. Many people camp along the parade route the night before to get a front-row seat, so be sure to head out early before the prime spots are gone. 

Display Your Utah Flag 

Whether you live in the heart of Salt Lake City or across the country, flying a Utah Flag is an easy way to celebrate Pioneer Day. Showing your Utah State pride lets everyone know you’re proud of your roots and the enormous challenges the Pioneers faced to secure their religious freedoms. 

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What are Other Holidays Celebrated on Pioneer Day?  

While many Utahns happily celebrate Pioneer Day, those who aren’t a part of the LDS church have created their own holiday. Fondly called Pie and Beer Day, this fun holiday is celebrated by non-Mormons throughout the state.  

Celebrate Pioneer Day with AmericanFlags.com  

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