Pioneer daze

Unilike the rest of the states in the union, Utahns have two excuses every July to makes things explode. There’s Independence Day, and twenty days later, on July 24 for Pioneer Day.

While national pride is prevalent around here, the sense of state pride is a strong rivals.

Annual parades, rodeos, fairs and the like are dotted on community event calendars celebrating the entry of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. For those who have attended such celebrations, there chance of encountering the immortal phrase, “this is the right place,” spoken by the leader of the pioneering clan, Brigham Young, are high.

American culture applauds the valiant, the bold, the trendsetters: the pioneers. Modern-day pioneers abound, but the focus on the rugged, rough and tumble pioneers of the romanticized West still molds modern culture.

The emphasis on individuality and the lone ranger has a tie to those sometimes unintentional trailblazers. Pioneer day is commemorated on a day centering around a significant event in Mormon history, but it’s not limited to a religious celebration.

These Mormons epitomized the American dream, ragged and suffering, they stumbled into a valley unknown to them, hoping to escape religious persecution.

Holding to that concept of individuality, every city celebrates it differently. Spanish Fork has aptly named it “Fiesta Days” while Salt Lake City holds to the more traditional “Days of ‘47.” The celebrations have the same foundation, fireworks, food and fun, but the unique traditions of each settled city is remembered and then shared by the born-and-raised locals.

Lehi, a small town, even went so far as to include a full-length, original musical that was performed for a few years running. The title song includes “This is Lehi, they followed their hearts to settle this land…” It could be cliché, but the adoring praise of the authors and then of the locals who sing the words are genuine. It ties to that sense of home and belonging felt during this holiday.

Pioneer day is not especially commercialized. Instead of seeing appropriately shaped candies and toys for the celebration, it’s centered on a sense of community, family and sharing. Farmer’s markets are plentiful. The state, together, reminiscences fondly of the days when intrepid adventurers were the norm.

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