Rodeos, runs and hikes help Utahns prepare for Pioneer Day parade

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More than a quarter of a million people are expected to attend this year’s The Days of ‘47 KSL 5 parade in Salt Lake City to celebrate Pioneer Day on July 24. Many families will camp out along State Street and South Temple the night prior to the parade to get the best seats.

While the parade may be the crown event of Utah’s Pioneer Day celebrations, one doesn’t have to camp out to start celebrating. Numerous events take place across the state in the days leading up to Pioneer Day.

Rodeo during The Days of '47
The Days of ’47 Komatsu Equipment Rodeo is one of Utah’s oldest rodeos. (Photo courtesy The Days of ’47)

Cowboys and cowgirls on broncos and bulls attract thousands of spectators to Pioneer Day rodeos across Utah every year. The Days of ’47 Komatsu Equipment Rodeo is one of the state’s oldest rodeos and features saddle and bareback bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping and more. The rodeo, which is Utah’s largest rodeo, is expected to bring in about 27,000 spectators this year.

Rodeo tickets are available at the EnergySolutions box office and at smithtix.com

Other The Days of ’47 celebrations include a youth parade with floats and marching bands, and a family festival with obstacle courses and rides. The organization will also put on free camps in the afternoon for children to watch or participate in activities like trick gun slinging and Native American dancing.

Many Utahns celebrate the holiday by hiking. Some hikers dress as pioneers and walk with guides to discuss pioneer travel and pioneer landmarks along The First Encampment Hike, a commemorative trek to the first pioneer campsite in the Great Salt Lake Valley.

“One of the most moving things about the hike is closely following in the footsteps of those early pioneers and seeing where they first entered the valley,” said Kathi Izatt, a member of the board of trustees for The Days of ’47, Inc.

The five-mile hike is organized and put on by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although The Days of ’47 advertises the event.

Float from The Days of '47 parade
Float from The Days of ’47 parade

Several cities will host races, runs and carnival events around the holiday. American Fork’s Steel Days, Mapleton’s Pioneer Days and Spanish Fork’s Fiesta Days will all host some form of race or run in addition to carnival-type activities. Provo will hold its first-ever Pioneer Day Raft and Run, where participants will start the race rafting down the Provo River and finish on foot.

All Raft and Run proceeds will fund single mothers wishing to attend college through the Live Your Dream Scholarship program. Raft and Run event director and organizer David Kyle said single mothers putting their lives back together are examples of modern pioneers.

“Single mothers have a lot of financial challenges to overcome,” Kyle said. “They’re their own pioneers. The scholarship is a great tool for these moms.”

Music will also be a part of the holiday celebrations. This year’s Pioneer Day Concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will feature LDS artists Lindsey Stirling and Nathan Pacheco. Stirling came into the public eye after appearing on America’s Got Talent in 2010, and she is known for combining classical violin and hip-hop styles and dancing while performing. Pacheco — a vocalist who performs in both pop and opera styles — released his debut album in 2012. Mack Wilberg, music director for the choir, will conduct the program.

Families participate in different activities during The Days of '47
Families participate in different activities during The Days of ’47 festivities.

BYU student Thomas Kelly, a 23-year-old information systems major from Vancouver, Wash., said he got tickets as soon as he heard that Stirling would be performing alongside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

“Lindsey Stirling. Mormon Tabernacle Choir. What’s not to love?” asked Kelly.

Lehi will not be holding its popular Foam Day event this year due to drought conditions, but the event should return next year. Lehi will host residents with carnival-like events at its Resident Appreciation Day in place of Foam Day on July 24.

The Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork will host the 19th annual Llama Fest the weekend before Pioneer Day, though it is not related to typical Pioneer Day celebrations. Timpview High School will hold its Pioneer Day Classic 5/10K race the Saturday after Pioneer Day.

Brigham Young and other pioneers first entered the Great Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Utahns have celebrated the anniversary for over 150 years by honoring the pioneers for their bravery and determination in settling the valley.

The traditional The Days of ’47 parade will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24, in downtown Salt Lake City.

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