Everyone wins in Days of '47 Youth Parade

With more than 3,000 children participating, the Days of '47 Youth Parade on July 23 was all just for fun.

In the annual parade celebrating the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in 1847, there is no judging or competition, no champion floats, no individual awards or honors, said longtime parade committee chairman Norma Jones."We don't want the children to feel there is any competition," she explained. "We want everyone to feel like they are the best."

This year's "best" included 76 entries, most representing stakes in the Salt Lake Valley. They included floats, bands, dancers, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. There were clowns and motorcycle policemen. And, of course, the throng of children who walked the six-block route as the temperature rose on a sunny Saturday morning.

The international flavor of many of the entries supported the parade's theme, shared with the committee trying to win a Winter Olympic bid for Utah: "The World Is Welcome Here."

A member of the Youth Parade Committee for several years, Sister Jones said the children remained the focal point of the parade.

"I'm concerned that they all have support and love, the opportunity to feel safe and have joy," she said.

Then she added: "I have to give credit to the adults who are working with the children. If they're excited, the children are excited. The adult leaders go all out to make sure the children are happy, safe and involved."

At the end of the parade route, the children were given treats and toys as rewards for their participation.

But Stephanie Boynton, a member of the Salt Lake Granger North Stake Primary Presidency, said there are other rewards, as well.

"I think it's something the children will remember the rest of their lives. They were excited and ready to go this morning," she said as the children enjoyed their post-parade treats.

Her stake's float, titled "We Think the World Is Glorious," was decorated with dolls playing around an apple tree under a large rainbow. The children wore brightly colored visors and carried pinwheels.

Dale and Kay Geddes, who helped build South Jordan Utah River Stake's float (a miniature of the Jordan River Temple behind a farm scene), said they noticed benefits for the children who participated.

"They learned a little dedication, community spirit and ward spirit," Brother Geddes said.

Marching behind the float were Primary children, approximately 400 from all 10 of the stake's wards, dressed in international costumes representing the people who come from around the world to visit the Jordan River Temple.

Leading the parade was the grand marshal, Utah's first lady Jacalyn S. Leavitt. She walked the route accompanied by her husband, Gov. Mike Leavitt.

Also participating in the parade were Primary General President Michelene P. Grassli and her counselors, Betty Jo N. Jepsen and Ruth B. Wright.

Sister Grassli's message for the parade was: "Today, we pay honor to our heritage, and to the pioneer spirit which is in the hearts of all children. We love our children and hope they will be provided with every opportunity to develop their full potential."

The parade was divided into four sections - Pioneer, Storytime, Patriotic and Historical. Entries in each section were related to the individual titles. Leading the Pioneer section were authentic handcarts accompanied by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and Sons of Utah Pioneers. Then the Salt Lake Wells Stake used about 350 marchers in a representation of a Mormon handcart company.

Many entries in the parade used flags of many nations or costumes from other nations. Others highlighted the beauties and resources of Utah. Entries highlighting gospel themes included floats topped with miniatures of the Salt Lake Temple and children dressed as missionaries going out to all the world.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed