Youth parade is for sharing happiness, fun

In all her years helping organize the Days of '47 Youth Parade, Norma Jones said what has remained consistent are the "smiles, the love, the happiness of the children."

"I have never found in the parade an unhappy child," said Sister Jones, chairman of the children's parade that commemorates the arrival of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. She has served as chairman for the past nine years, and has served on the parade committee for 28 years.Another thing, she said, that has remained consistent in the youth parade is its purpose. "We're all united in sharing happiness and fun on a day that should be special to everyone involved," Sister Jones said.

And "everyone" during this year's parade, July 17, included about 4,500 children and youth, ranging from 2 to 16 years. On a clear, sunny morning, 75 entries, including 33 floats, marched for six blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. Hot, tired participants were then rewarded with treats and certificates stating they had been in the parade.

Riding in the parade were Elder Lloyd P. George of the Seventy, and Primary Gen. Pres. Michaelene P. Grassli, and her counselors, Betty Jo N. Jepsen and Ruth B. Wright.

Sister Jones explained that the parade has grown from being a Church-oriented event to more of a community event. Besides stakes and wards from throughout the Salt Lake Valley, many non-LDS local organizations now take part. This year, the Boy Scout pack from the Episcopalian Cathedral Church of St. Mark participated. The Scouts displayed a banner, which read, "Supporting Scouting in Utah for all denominations since 1912."

"We're trying to involve the community," Sister Jones said. "It is our goal as a youth parade committee to offer an open invitation to all denominations to participate with the children in this exciting event."

She added that in an "era of uncertainty," children can "learn to grow together and to respect each other, regardless of race or religious beliefs."

Bishop Wayne Selu of the Mapusaga (Samoan) Ward, Salt Lake Hunter Stake, likely might agree. He told the Church News after the parade that 100 youth from the ward marched in the parade in traditional Samoan costumes to "bring before the people our way of life. We share with the people of the valley who we are."

Another purpose for entering the parade, he explained, was to help the Samoan children to "not forget where they come from. We want to remember our beautiful island of Samoa."

"Beautiful" is one way to describe their red Samoan costumes and green, yellow and blue leis.

The Samoan ward wasn't the only entry that caught the eye. Floats flowed down Main Street creating a sea of color. Themes included friendship, temples, missionary work and industry.

Offering a lesson in honesty was a large-size figure of Pinocchio on a gold-fringed float from the Draper Utah Stake. The Disney figure, which was followed by about 140 children, wore a yellow hat, and his nose was so long - from lying as the story is told - that an artificial yellow bird was perched on it.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the organization of the Days of '47 celebration were about 90 children from the Sandy Utah Crescent West Stake. The stake's float carried a large replica of a birthday cake. The white cake, with purple tinsel representing cake decoration, was topped by five pink candles with gold foil for flames. The top layer of the cake twirled.

About 300 children from the Murray Utah South Stake commemorated the first granite block being brought by rail to the Salt Lake Temple site in 1873. On their float was a red artificial steam engine, trimmed with gold tinsel. From a silver stack came puffs of smoke, made of cotton. Several children acted as conductors and seemed to enjoy blowing a whistle, attached to the inside of the yellow conductor's box.

About 470 children from the Sandy Utah Crescent South Stake walked behind their float, decorated with purple tinsel. On top of the float were flags of many nations. The children were dressed in the cultural costumes of Polynesia, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Asia, Holland and the USA.

In her years with the parade committee, Sister Jones has seen many such floats - and many smiles. "I remember one day about five years ago when the wind was blowing and cardboard from the floats was flying everywhere. The children still loved the parade."

In fact, many parade participants keep returning every year - one for 32 straight years as did C. Roy Ferrin, director of the Tooele Junior Band, which includes 5th-, 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students from Tooele, Utah. He has directed this band in the parade for 30 years. The first two years in the parade, he directed a junior high school band from Vernal, Utah.

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