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Days of ‘47 parade 2023: Being a pioneer ‘means everything’

See photos of Days of ‘47 parade floats created by members throughout Utah celebrating their pioneer ancestry

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Salt Lake City to celebrate the 2023 Days of ’47 parade on a warm and sunny Monday morning on July 24. Colorful floats, decorated with things such as hand-crafted doves or intricately designed mini-temples, were created to represent this years’ theme — “Pioneer Stories ... Values to Build On.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints served as the grand marshal of the Days of ‘47 Pioneer Day parade. In an interview with KSL Television, Elder Christofferson spoke of the rich history and lasting heritage of the Days of ‘47 parade.

“It is getting to be a long legacy, isn’t it?” he said. “Which I’m glad to see. It is important that we have some things that continue on through generations.”

He called celebrating that pioneer heritage important.

“It’s the stories that teach us,” said Elder Christofferson. “It’s the stories where we learn. … You learn a lot from the sacrifice, the persistence, the family support and community support in difficult times. That’s always an important lesson because there’s always difficult times.”

The Days of ‘47 parade moves down State Street in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

When people gather together they provide support and strength to one another, he said. Caring for others is a characteristic of being a pioneer and Salt Lake was a “refuge for people fleeing persecution.”

Elder Christofferson called the early pioneering efforts in the Salt Lake Valley “a visionary beginning. As you look at it now, one thing that strikes me is people didn’t just survive, they thrived — and they thrive here today.”

He continued, “It became and has become, according to that vision really, a wonderful gathering place for a wide variety of people.”

Latter-day Saints who participated in the parade by creating floats that celebrate their ancestors feel similarly to Elder Christofferson.

When asked what it means to be a pioneer, Cordie Weed, a volunteer and member of the Farmington Utah Oakridge Stake, said, “It means people who have traveled and have sacrificed a lot in their life to come here. And I am so grateful for my ancestor pioneers ... so I can have a good life now.”

One of the highlights of the parade for Weed was getting to help out with her stake float. “My friend, Catherine, had me feel the float — to feel the letters — so I could tell what it was saying. And that means a lot to me as a blind person,” she said.

West Jordan Utah Park Stake members put final touches on their float during a float preview party held at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Friday, July 21, 2023. The Days of ’47 parade was first held in 1849. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Nicole Heder, of the West Jordan Utah Park Stake, talked about how their float’s theme was to focus on building on the rock of Jesus Christ. Their float incorporates a large molding of the Savior’s hand holding a re-creation of the Salt Lake Valley — including a large replica of the Salt Lake Temple.

The West Jordan Utah Park Stake representatives gathered 400 family history stories from members of their stake and transcribed them onto 400 paper flowers that now decorate their float.

And the rhinestones on the tips of their hand-crafted Salt Lake Temple also have a story. “We also asked the youth to be involved. So they participated in the rhinestones at the top of the temple,” Heder said. “Each rhinestone represents a person we did temple work for.”

The youth’s goal was to do enough work for 2,500 rhinestones for the temple. In the end, these Latter-day Saint youth from the West Jordan Utah Park Stake had been involved in enough temple work, such as indexing or attending the temple, to put 25,000 rhinestones on the hand-crafted temple.

Members of the Salt Lake Utah West Stake (Tongan) walk in the Days of ‘47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. The float won three awards; Children’s Choice award, People’s Choice award and the Days of ’47 Sweepstakes award. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The Salt Lake Utah West Stake (Tongan) also participated in the Days of ‘47 parade this year. Leaaetohi Halaufia, the float director, described the layers of meaning that went into creating their canoe-shaped float. The idea wasn’t meant to be just artistic, she said. The inspiration behind their float came from the desire to stay true to their Tongan culture.

The canoe has deep meaning for them and their gospel culture. “The gospel was brought to us in a canoe,” said Halaufia. “This is our story.”

Standing at the front of the canoe are two missionaries representing the gospel coming to their island. Also on their float is a design of the Book of Mormon as well as the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple, first dedicated in 1983.

“My favorite part of this experience was the unifying of the stake members,” Halaufia said. When she thinks about pioneers she says that it “brings back memories of my ancestors and how they sacrificed to get the gospel to us.”

To her, being a pioneer “means everything.”

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The Days of 47’ Royalty wave to parade attendees during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Parade participants with the Salt Lake Holladay North Stake’s float, Pioneer Stories, dance on the parade route at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A parade participant with the Sandy Utah Crescent Stake float, winner of the Pioneer’s Choice award, at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Herriman Utah Butterfield Canyon Stake’s float is pictured at the Days of ‘47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
The float from the Salt Lake Utah West Stake (Tongan) is the winner of the Sweepstakes award, People’s Choice award, and Children’s Choice award at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Parade participants wave at the crowd along the parade route during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Rachelle Stucki and her children, Jacob, right, and Emma, draw chalk art on the parade route before the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Tractors travel down the parade route at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Sivalu, left, and Winna Fonua blow bubbles from their bubble guns during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Evie Page watches the annual Days of ’47 parade from her father Curtis Page’s lap in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Kayla Willey, dressed as a laundress in the Mormon Battalion, ties her bonnet during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, waves during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Elizabeth Buell waves at parade participants during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The Viewmont High School marching band participates in the Days of ‘47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Members of the Salt Lake County Farm Bureau drive their equipment in the Days of ‘47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
The Days of ‘47 parade moves down State Street in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Members of the Sons of Utah Pioneers walk in the Days of ‘47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints, with his wife Sister Kathy Christofferson, waves during the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Parade participants from the West Jordan Utah Cobble Creek Stake sit on their float at the Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A float made by the Sandy Utah Canyon View Stake at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A float made by the Salt Lake Grant Stake at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Parade participants sit in their pioneer-themed float from the Sandy Utah Hidden Valley Stake at the Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A float made by the Bountiful Utah Stake from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the annual Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A float made by the West Jordan Utah Park Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The BYU float at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Parade participants walk by with the Kearns Utah Stake float at the Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Winner of this year’s Theme award, the Taylorsville Utah North Stake float goes down the street at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A float made by the Murray South Stake at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The Draper Utah River View Stake float rides down the street at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A float made by the Bountiful Utah Stone Creek Stake at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The float by the Farmington Utah Oakridge Stake was the winner of this year’s Spirt of Faith award at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Winner of the Judge’s Choice award, the Herriman Utah Butterfield Canyon Stake float passes by on the parade route at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Members of the Mormon Battalion walk in the Days of ‘47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
The Davis High School marching band performs at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The Castle Valley marching band performs at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The Murray Utah South Stake float at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
The West Valley City parade float passes at the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
A clown makes balloon animals before the start of the annual Days of ’47 parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Sister missionaries cheer on the parade participants during the annual Days of ’47 Parade .
Sister missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cheer on the parade participants during the annual Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 24, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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