Recent transplants to Utah may be pleasantly surprised to learn they have a second holiday weekend this month. Thursday is Pioneer Day and this year marks the 167th anniversary of the day Brigham Young, one of the founders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.
For many Utah natives it rivals the nation's Fourth of July festivities and kicks off a long weekend of traditional events including parades, rodeos and re-enactments of the state's unique history. But for newcomers, the 24th of July is little more than an excuse to enjoy a day off work. It is much more interesting, however, to use the occasion as an excuse to delve into a bit of local history.
Across the state, cities and towns will be hosting events that celebrate Utah's rich history. Salt Lake City's popular Days of '47 Parade typically includes several entries devoted to the Mormons' early handcart treks as they traveled west to escape religious persecution. In smaller communities, like Kamas, homemade floats highlight residents' ties to agriculture and cowboy culture while also offering a nod to more recent pastimes like cycling, skateboarding and ATV riding.
For long-time residents the rodeos, demolition derbies, parades and picnics are an important touchstone that cements family traditions. For others it is a valuable opportunity to establish connections to their communities.
While Pioneer Day is primarily a Mormon holiday, it also acknowledges the diverse spectrum of early settlers who tamed a tough landscape and laid the groundwork for the lifestyles that Utahns enjoy today. Summit County played an important role in that story and it's worth taking a moment this week to consider the challenges those pioneers faced and the hopes they harbored for their new home in the West.
For information about Salt Lake City's Days of '47 celebration go to: www.daysof47.com
For information about Kamas Fiesta days go to: www.kamascity.net