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More Dogs on Main

Tom Clyde

Today is the 24th of July. You might look at your calendar and say that, no, today is the 23rd of July. But you would be wrong. Because the 24th falls on a Sunday, it will be celebrated on either the 23rd or the 25th. A lot of people don’t have the 25th off work to celebrate the 24th, so the 24th will be celebrated on the 23rd. Got that? It’s like when the Fourth of July falls on a Monday and the liquor stores are closed on Sunday and the holiday: If you want a fifth for the Fourth, you need to buy it on the Third.

The bigger question for a lot of people in the Park City/Snyderville area isn’t whether to celebrate the 24th on the 23rd or the 25th, but what is the 24th of July in the first place. In the rest of Utah, it is a holiday rivaled only by Christmas in its importance. In Park City, it just doesn’t get proper recognition. The 24th of July in Park City is as big as Rosh Hashanah in Provo.

So, for the uninitiated among us, here is a little primer on the 24th of July and its importance in the cosmos. First off, the official name of the holiday is "Pioneer Day." It has become a great patriotic celebration, with U.S. flags and red, white and blue everywhere. I’ve always found that a little puzzling because, historically, the pioneers who came to Utah in 1847 (and arrived in Salt Lake on July 24th, just in time for the parade), were leaving the United States and setting up an independent nation on land that was technically owned by Mexico (unless you asked the Ute Indians about that). The Mormons had been given the boot in Missouri and Illinois and were headed west at the "urging" of their former neighbors who were burning their houses to the ground. We could more properly call it "Refugee Day."

After getting to Utah, it took nearly 50 years, some major theological changes and a significant paring down of the Utah Territory for Utah to be admitted to the Union. In the meantime, the U.S. Army was dispatched to keep an eye on things. Fort Douglas, on the hill that is now the University of Utah campus, was there with the canons pointed at Salt Lake. But now, on the 24th, it’s all stars and stripes.

The parade in Salt Lake is a big deal, with people camping out the night before to get a good spot to watch it from. There are smaller parades in towns all over the state. Kamas puts on a weeklong celebration with parades, rodeos and a demolition derby that is almost impossible to get tickets for. The 24th of July parade in Park City is somewhat more modest.

The important thing about the 24th is that Brigham Young, sick with fever and exhausted from the long journey across the plains, came into the Salt Lake Valley, peered out of his covered wagon, and proclaimed, "I’ll bet there is some kick-ass skiing in those mountains." They decided to stay. Under Brigham Young’s amazing leadership, the pioneers immediately built the airport and I-80 so that people could fly in and be skiing that afternoon.

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The rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of pioneers, I got an email the other day with a photo of a former neighbor of mine on his 100th birthday. He celebrated it the way most of us would celebrate turning 100 by skydiving. Mac lived a short distance from us when I was growing up. His garage was a sort of never-ending series of lean-to additions to other additions. It was filled with every power tool imaginable. A lot of people can work with wood. Mac did stuff with metal. When a piece of complicated machinery would break down in the middle of harvesting the hay, Mac would fix it, and fabricate a new part if a replacement couldn’t be located quickly. As a little kid, getting a chance to watch him in action sparks flying and torches blasting was about the most amazing thing you could ever see.

He packed up and moved to St. George years ago when the winters here became too much. At 95 he was still working three days a week installing storm doors. He told me he felt so sorry for those "old people" who sat around just waiting to die. I pointed out that most of those "old people" were younger than his children. He agreed and said that’s what made it so pathetic. I’m not sure what he will do to celebrate 110, but I have no doubt he will still be up and at it.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.