Thousands celebrate the Days of 1947 parade in homage to Utah’s pioneering heritage

Under a hazy sky, families line the streets of Salt Lake City to watch the annual Pioneer Day commemoration.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A float from the Salt Lake Holladay North Stake at the Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

Thousands flocked to the track Monday for the Days of ’47 parade and its glittering slice of Utah Americana.

Marching bands, intricate dazzlingly colored floats, clowns on tricycles, vintage cars and horsemen of all stripes mingled with belief and limit values ​​as the two-hour rolling party roared down Salt Lake City’s 200 East from South Temple to Liberty Park.

Utah’s Pioneer Day celebrates the July 24 arrival of Brigham Young and a group of weary members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Great Salt Lake Valley 176 years ago.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A float from Herriman Utah Town Center at the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

With approximately 150 participants in the 2023 parade, including 115 floats, this year’s theme was “Pioneer Stories… Values ​​to Build On!” – culminating in a series of weekend events, social gatherings, pageants and fireworks to celebrate the state holiday.

Gentle cloud cover caused temperatures to drop significantly from a forecast 101 degrees to the mid-90s after previously topping 100 degrees for three days in a row. Shade trees, tents and plenty of ice, watermelon, sodas, bottled water, sprayers, squirt guns and handheld fans helped keep viewers cool on Monday.

Crowds of runners started at 5:30 a.m. in the Deseret News Marathon, Utah’s oldest road run, and by mid-morning, stragglers were still making their way through the city streets, overshadowing the parade.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A Tongan West Stake float at the Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

Mexican horsemen in broad sombreros demonstrated the equestrian traditions of Charreria, and several community groups of Pacific heritage marched in traditional wrap skirts, along with Scottish bagpipers who sent up plaintive tunes to cheer the crowds.

Many Utah cities, Latter-day Saint groups, major corporations, and other community institutions also made appearances.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall waved to the observers with her husband Kyle LaMalfa, followed not far behind by Yashinae Guan, Mayor of Matsumoto, Japan, part of a delegation visiting to mark 65 years as the Utah capital’s sister city.

Mendenhall and Guan planned a tree planting ceremony for Monday in the Japanese section of the city’s International Peace Garden.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) United Charros of Utah at the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

Hundreds of families continued the tradition of camping along the 13-block parade route the night before to secure a preferred spot, a pattern that has continued since the fabled parade walked down Main Street.

Large, multi-generational clans, spread out on blankets and folding chairs, often dragging infants in wagons, lined the festival circle days in advance, positioning themselves several families deep on either side.

Many celebrated Monday with well-stocked picnics, ice chests, and tables filled with snacks as they looked on.

The first parade of this kind took place in 1849, two years after Latter-day Saint pioneers arrived in the valley. By the 1930s, a version called “Covered Wagon Days” had become an annual event, renamed Days of ’47 sometime in the 1940s.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Clearfield High School Marching Band at the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

While the celebrations reflect Utah’s growing diversity, the parade and adjacent Days of ’47 rodeo also commemorate agricultural and frontier values ​​that bind many Utah residents together through pioneer ancestry.

Children scampered nearby on a patch of grass along 200 East while Grant Holland, a family patriarch from Layton, giggled as a wave of bubbles from a passing float washed over the crowd and a cowboy prompted them all to shout “Yahoo!”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The crowd cheers on a float from the Tongan West Stake at the Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

Holland’s original pioneering ancestor, John Holland, ventured west across the prairie to Utah in 1853 as a 13-year-old orphan, the man said, barefoot and wearing a straw hat with a fringed top.

Generations later, the extended clan of John Holland’s descendants — which now includes the Holland, Johansen and Fingerle branches of the family — made the annual pilgrimage to the Salt Lake City parade, Holland said, and this year they brought visitors from Iceland and Germany.

“We’re having a wonderful time,” Holland said with a smile.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A float from the town of Draper at the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023.

Justin Scaccy

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