Parades and barbeques usher in Pioneer Day activities for many Latter-day Saints throughout the Church, but for members of the Mendon Ward, Wellsville Utah Stake, it's the crack of a bat.
For two weeks leading up to the July 24 celebration, residents of Mendon, about 70 miles north of Salt Lake City, host a Pioneer Day softball tournament. This year, the tournament began July 8 with 17 teams from throughout Cache Valley, where Mendon is one of many communities founded by Mormon pioneers. The tournament concluded Saturday, July 23, when the town celebrated Pioneer day. The teams, consisting of players from ages 17-45, were mainly sponsored by local businesses and organizations and are part of city and county softball leagues."The tournament is almost more for the community than it is for the ball players," said Bishop Larry L. Olsen of the Mendon Ward. He explained that the softball field is at the base of a grassy knoll. "The citizens come out and get their hamburgers and talk and stay until 10:30 p.m. unto the games are over.
"The tournament gives residents a chance to socialize," he continued. "With their kids playing, Moms and Dads can come down and get sodas and watch the games. This year there were two teams from the city involved."
Bishop Olsen explained that the softball tournament is sponsored by the Mendon City Council and has been a "tradition for years and years. There's been a softball game between fathers and sons since the late 1960s. Then in 1969, it became a regular tournament with organized teams coming to play."
The softball tournament is just one of many Pioneer Day activities for Mendon residents. Other activities this year included an early morning breakfast at a local park, games and a parade. Bishop Olsen told the Church News that Pioneer day and other celebrations are important to those living in Mendon.
"The people of all these small communities in Cache Valley have a deep, deep sense of who they are and the traditions that they follow."
In speaking of the sacrifices made by the founders of these communities, he said: "We are all pioneers. I think a philosophy we need is to make our communities better places for the generations that follow. We can do as much in preparing for the future and making the community nice as the pioneers who built log cabins.
Bishop Olsen added that July 24 is a chance to say "Thanks" to those who have gone before. "Hopefully, in future generations, our great-grandchildren will be able to say the same thing." s