SALT LAKE CITY — Marching band music, miniature covered wagons made out of plastic kid's wagons and floats kicked off pioneer-themed events Saturday.
The 2013 Days of '47 Union Pacific Youth Parade, the largest youth parade in the country, was the official beginning of what Gov. Gary Herbert declared to be "Days of '47 Week," with events running from July 20-24.
"We stand on the shoulders of giants, those who have gone before," Herbert said during a press conference after the parade.
He was escorted to the stage by Buffalo Soldiers, who were dressed in Civil War period uniforms. Their presence was commemorating the black cavalry sent to protect Utahns in 1883.
Dressed in cowboy boots, a belt buckle and a cowboy hat, Herbert encouraged Utahns to prepare to leave their own legacy.
"We have an opportunity to give back ourselves and create our own legacy," he told the Deseret News.
His appearance was days after surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma on his scalp. A white bandage under his cowboy hat covered the surgery area, where doctors removed all the cancer, Herbert said. He is now "on the mend."
More than 5,000 participants walked in the parade, including marching bands from Utah high schools, clowns, representatives from Boy Scouts of America and wards and stakes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The parade ran from 600 East and 500 South to the City and County Building, located at 200 East 500 South.
This year's theme was, "Pioneers — An Anchor for the Future."
Variations of the parade's theme could be seen on floats and T-shirts throughout the event.
Saturday was a day of firsts in Utah.
Herbert rode in the 2013 Days of '47 Union Pacific Youth Parade for the first time. His appearance was "significant" in terms of community outreach, Greg James, executive vice president of Days of '47, Inc., said.
This was also the first time the Utah Food Bank collected donations during the parade.
Summer is a slow time for donations to the Food Bank, according to Ginette Bott, and Saturday's event was a chance to gather more food for those in need.
Members of the Utah Army National Guard Recruiting and the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion worked with the Food Bank to gather the food.
It takes about three years of involvement with an organization before donations begin to pick up, Bott, said. Before the parade started, she said she would be "thrilled" if they filled one cardboard tote, which would equal about 2,000 pounds.
They estimated that this goal was met by the end of the parade.
Saturday's parade provided an opportunity for children who have enough food to think about those who are in need, Bott said.
Other events leading up to the 24th include the Family Festival, held at the City and County Building following the parade, the Days of '47 Komatsu Equipment Rodeo, held at the Energy Solutions Arena from July 19-24 (excluding Sunday,) a July 24th Sunrise Service at the Tabernacle on Temple Square and the Days of '47 KSL 5 Parade.
For more information visit www.daysof47.com.