While most states put their fireworks away after the Fourth of July, Utah keeps them handy for Pioneer Day. Celebrated on July 24 each year, Pioneer Day is a holiday that recognizes the anniversary of the Mormon pioneers landing in the Salt Lake Valley. The state celebrates the official state holiday with events, fireworks and parades.
On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers landed in Utah's Salt Lake Valley. The Mormons, after experiencing persecution that forced them to move from other settlements in the east, the Mormons sought and found a refuge in the valleys of Utah. Two years after this momentous occasion, the local population held a celebration in which Brigham Young was led by a procession from his home to Temple Square, where the Mormon Temple was to be built.
Pioneer Day Today
Today, Pioneer Day is one of the largest regional celebrations in the United States. Celebrated primarily in Utah, it's also recognized throughout other Mormon enclaves in the country. While its origins pertain specifically to Mormons and the Church of Latter Day Saints, the celebration has become more secular and inclusive in nature, celebrating the pioneering spirit and Utah heritage in general. During Pioneer Days, you'll find firework displays, parades and rodeos. The holiday is also called Days of 47.
Salt Lake Days of 47
As the heart of the celebration, and the capital of Utah, Salt Lake hosts the largest Pioneer Day celebration each year. The Days of 47 is a series of events and celebrations in the greater Salt Lake Valley throughout the month of July. It includes the Days of 47 Rodeo, the Pioneer Heritage Festival and Brother Brigham's Ball. Activities culminate in the main event: the Days of 47 KSL 5 Parade, which includes floats, bands, clowns and others, proceeding through the heart of Salt Lake City between South Temple and Liberty Park. Organizers have said that it's the third largest parade in the United States, following only the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The Days of 47 Parade attracts thousands of spectators each year. It begins on South Temple, turns south onto 200 West and proceeds nine blocks to 900 South and Liberty Park. According to the Days of 47 website, some spectators and families camp out overnight for the best viewing spots, so it pays to get there early. If you're not sure about standing outside in the dry, July heat, attend the Zion Bank Float Preview Party. This event, which takes place several days before the parade in the air-conditioned South Towne Expo Center, lets you see and vote on the floats a little early. Admission is free and there's music and other entertainment.
While Salt Lake City is the main hub for the holiday, celebrations take place throughout Utah. The city of Ogden holds its own Pioneer Days celebration with a week of activities including a rodeo and fireworks. Other cities like Provo, Logan and Kanab hold their own celebrations.