Families and friends lined the streets of downtown Salt Lake City on the morning of July 24 — some having camped out overnight — to celebrate Utah’s Pioneer Day at the Days of ’47 Parade.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency and his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, rode through the parade route, smiling and waving from the back of a red Ford Mustang Convertible.
State and government officials including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Chris Stewart also appeared in the parade.
The theme of this year’s Days of ’47 celebration was “Pioneers: Visions of a New Horizon,” symbolizing the Mormon Pioneers’ goal as they strived to reach the new horizon on their journey west.
“I think it’s fun that we as Utahns remember those pioneers that made it and just everything that they’ve done,” said Jodene Smith, co-chair of the parade. “That’s always in our mind is to honor that sacrifice and that hard work and to make sure that we remember hard work and sacrifice is still an attribute today.”
Kathi Izatt, a parade committee member and co-chair of the religious section of the parade, said she is impressed every year with the “creative and ingenious” ways LDS stakes depict the parade's annual theme with their floats.
“It’s just incredible that people who have never done anything like this before can amass the creativity, the technicians, the mechanics, the welders, the carpenters, the creative types, all of the components it takes to put together a float,” Izatt said.
One float she found particularly remarkable was the West Jordan Mountain View Stake’s float — winner of the parade’s People’s Choice and Children’s Choice awards. This float featured a working sawmill and gristmill patterned after a design by Mormon Pioneer Archibald Gardner, who served as a bishop in West Jordan for 32 years.
“This guy did so much for the pioneers,” said Nolan Gerber, a chairman over the stake’s float. “He made it easier for the rest of the pioneers to do what they were trying to do.”
Gardner’s water-powered mill design helped pioneers to saw wood and grind wheat much more efficiently than they were able to by hand. The West Jordan Mountain View Stake’s float mirrors this design with a water wheel run on seven to eight gallons of water, which powers a sawmill on one end of the float and a gristmill on the other end.
“It’s all run off of water,” Gerber said. “The only motor that’s in the whole float is the pump. We built it the way the pioneers did in honor of them.”
The nation’s armed forces were represented in the parade with a group of U.S. Marines, as well as a Utah Honor Flight, featuring veterans from World War II and the Vietnam War. Members of the Utah National Guard and Civil Air Patrol also marched in the parade. A group from Make-A-Wish Utah was featured aboard army vehicles.
Members of the Salt Lake City Police Department Motorcycle Squad led the parade wearing false red, white, black and brown moustaches.
A float representing refugees welcomed “new American pioneers” to Utah.
Several marching bands performed in the parade, from the Liahona Alumni, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Utah and Salt Lake Community College Summer Spirit bands to those from Richfield, Stansbury, Northridge, Davis, Kearns, West Jordan, Park City and Delta high schools.
The Days of ’47 and Utah Valley University royalties were represented in the parade, as well as several city royalties, including those from Draper, Herriman, Bluffdale, Saratoga Springs, Lehi, Murray, Riverton and Tooele.
Various Model A cars drove through the parade, along with several other vehicles from the early 1900s.
Izatt said she thinks Utah’s Pioneer Day celebration is important because the state’s history is “inextricably intertwined” with the Mormon Pioneers.
“It was the Mormon movement that began the process of building what we have now,” Izatt said. “That’s worth celebrating.”