The Days of '47 Parade burned itself into the memories of tens of thousands of spectators as a kaleidoscope of colors drifted down Salt Lake City's Main Street.
Even before the sun's rays had grazed the Wasatch Mountains, the capital of the beehive state was buzzing with activity. Not even the new parade ordinance making it illegal to camp along the route prior to 8 p.m. Monday could damper the 143rd annual pioneer celebration. However, there were noticeably fewer people lining the streets in the early morning hours and not a tent was in sight.After wandering around for an hour, Rick Bigelow and crew claimed their piece of sidewalk on the shady east side of the street exactly at the allowed hour of 8 p.m. Bigelow said he is the chaperone or the "No. 1 fool" in the group. He and his children, Addy, 11; Amanda, 13; Amelia, 10; and their friends, Brad Miles and Josh and Megan Felt, have made the campout a tradition for the past several years. He said this year the crowd seemed to be even rowdier and the traffic busier into the wee hours of the morning. The extra noise, combined with kids splashing water on him from a nearby fountain at 3 a.m. Tuesday, kept him awake most of the night.
Concerning the ordinance, Bi
gelow said: "I got a kick out of seeing all the people camp out. I think it is too bad there are not as many people here as usual. If the ordinance works to make the attendance lower, well then I don't agree with it."
The camping out seems to be the fun part of the parade for many. Bigelow said by the time the parade starts, he is usually so tired he sneaks back behind the crowd and dozes off.
But most campers were not too weary to cheer the Deseret News-KSL Marathon and 10K runners as they came around the corner at 100 South.
All this revelry - and sacrifice for some - celebrate the arrival
of the pioneer wagons that came into the valley 143 years ago. And the spectators who lined the streets, as well as those who watched their televisions athome, were not disappointed as more than 150 entries poured past the crowds. Horses, clowns, bands and floats - adorned in brightly colored plastic and paper - kept the children and the young-at-heart spellbound for more than two hours.
The parade is the premier event of the 24th of July activities. Parade starter Frank Bradbury compares it with the Rose Parade. Hundreds of volunteer man hours go into each float that spectators see only for a few moments, but for those involved the work is worth it.
"Last night if you would have asked me if I'd do it again I would have said no, but now I suspect I'd do it again," said Dan Letham, design engineer for the Salt Lake Granite Stake's "Miracle of the Gulls" - sweepstakes winner and first place Historical I category float.
About 800 man hours were spent designing the purple, yellow and white float depicting the gulls that saved the Mormon pioneers from the crop-destroying crickets. Golden gulls circled over the float as harmless-looking big purple crickets jumped out of the front of the float.
"I just went to bed one night and woke up with the idea," Letham said.
He said the float was kept to a $3,000 budget by using last year's frame. The weeks of work were haunted by problems, and a light rain Monday night threatened to turn the float into a disaster. But in the end it came through a winner.
"I looked around at all the great floats and I didn't think we had a chance," Letham said.
Depicting another culture was the Taylorsville West Stake Float "Asian Contributions to Utah's Industry and Commerce" - the first-place winner in the Historical II category. An Asian garden, complete with fountains, geraniums and a flag, turned the float into a beauty.
"We were working on this sucker a long time," said Brian Nielson, engineer of the fountains. "When we made it over the gutter and it didn't break apart we knew it was all worth it."
A real entertainment for the kids was the KTVX "For Kids Sake Float." A brightly colored red, blue, yellow and white giant clown smiled from his place at the back. On the front, children of all ages and Ronald McDonald waved to paradegoers.
The weather cooperated nicely with the parade. A light cloud cover kept the burning sun's rays away and a slight breeze made waiting for the parade comfortable.
Popular bands joined the march, including the Tooele High School Band, 23 Army Band, Utah Pipe Band, Salt Lake Scots Band and the Spartans from Vancouver, Wash.
Also present were the regular dignitaries. Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and his wife were grand marshals; President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Francis, represented the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gov. Norm Bangerter, complete with cowboy hat and Western wear, was also present. A special honorary guest was Alma G. Farnsworth, wife of TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth.
Not winners in the parade, but folks who deserved special recognition were:
- The two boys in Superman and Batman costumes watching the parade.
- The 1,500 members of Secretaries Professional International from all over the world who were in Salt Lake City and able to see the parade.
- The reunion of 3,500 lining Main Street and 100 South.
- The girl who put beauty ahead of all the rest with her compact mirror and makeup in hand early the morning after her parade campout.