Ah Utah. The story of Utah's founding beats out any state in the Union (except maybe Texas and those 13 original ones). We've got a Biblical-style Exodus tale, war with the Federal Government, occupation, polygamy, covered wagons and handcarts. Way better than all the other western states that follow the usual "we found (gold, copper, minerals, lumber) and went and got it" plot line. And once a year, two weeks after we celebrate Independence Day, we shove that tired old holiday aside with our own celebration of a State unlike any other. It may look and feel like the Fourth of July but it's not. It's the 24th of July, the Days of 1847, when Utah was Deseret and statehood was far, far away.
[caption id="attachment_1576" align="alignnone" width="461" caption="Handcart Days in Bountiful"][/caption]
Up in Bountiful the name of the celebration is Handcart Days, which gets things started Parade-wise with an evening event down Main Street on Friday. Parade starts and 6 p.m. and then everything ends up in the city park, where there's games and food, and warm flat sodas sold by the local wards. (I used to sell warm flat soda at this parade, so I'm not kidding.)
[caption id="attachment_1577" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Brigham's Ball at This is the Place Heritage Park"][/caption]
For something more, say, authentic and Frontiery, check out Brother Brigham's Ball at This is the Place Heritage Park. Brigham Young threw many such gala events in his day (Briggy loved to Boogie) and the Ball is a revival of the tradition, featuring a brass band, dance instruction, poetry reading (huh?) and more. Bonus: The ball is held in one of Brigham Young's actual homes at the park. So you've got that going for you. Come dressed in period clothing if you want to really fit in (this may be mandatory). The ball starts at 7 p.m. Friday night. For more info, tickets etc. click here.
In fact, This is the Place, is really the place to get your Pioneer Day history on. They've got a full slate of P-Day events and activities including a pie eating contest. Check it out here.
[caption id="attachment_1579" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Days of 47 Parade (it's a hot one)."]
The BIG DAY
You've got to start Pioneer Day out right. With a fun run? NOPE. A giant pancake breakfast and in my experience there is no better than the Logan Lions Club feed from 7 to 9 p.m. in Willow Park. They use a sourdough starter that came across the Great Plains with the pioneers. The P-day parade follows.
Now if you're not in Logan (and, really, why would you be?), the main event is of course the Days of 47 Parade in Salt Lake City. The parade 9 a.m. at South Temple and State Street, runs east to 200 East, turns south on 900 South and then heads east to Liberty Park. When I was a kid, I learned about heat stroke at this parade. So wear sunscreen and a hat. The hardcores camp out overnight on the parade route, another Utah tradition.
Fireworks! Yeah! Pioneers did not of course enjoy the fireworks in 1847, they would have burned the Wasatch Front down. It wasn't until later, when they had shade and pavement that they learned to blow stuff up real good. There are three good options for fireworks on Pioneer Day at dusk.
The Bees Game--This is becoming a classic. Watch the baseball and the sun set on the Wasatch Range and then mob the field to watch the flash and bang right up close. The Bees have fireworks on Friday and Saturday night. Get tickets now, the fireworks games always sell out.
The Real Game--Now there's a new sport in town. Not sure if you've heard of it. It's called soccer and they play it in Sandy. They're trying real hard to get this soccer thing going here in Utah so they're trying to win us over with fireworks at Rio Tinto. Take Trax on down to Sandy, see the soccer (something to do with they can only use their feet) and then watch the flash bang. Who knows, maybe someday it'll be bigger than baseball (or "Rounders" as Brigham called it).
Liberty Park--Now if you're a purist (meaning you like your fireworks free) Liberty Park is the place to be. The good folks at Chevron have assured us that the contaminated pond will not explode into flames (but we're secretly hoping that happens, because, well, it would and make for a Pioneer Day we'd not soon forget) and the fireworks will go forward. So join 50,000 of your close personal friends on the lawns and promanade's at Liberty and let Pioneer Freedom ring with liberty and justice for all.
So that's the bigs. We know there are many more P-day fantasias out there. Feel free to post your events here and follow our tweets through the the weekend at SaltLakeEditor, and Slmag.