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Days of '47 Parade celebrates Americana, diversity and history in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Though she doesn't remember the exact year, Ora Hegerhorst said she's been going to the Days of '47 Parade since she was 5 or 6 years old.

Now in her 70s, Hegerhorst has attended the parade for over 60 years, calling it a tradition she's preserved through her own family.

"I love coming to the parade," she said, sitting along South Temple in a lawn chair between her husband, daughter and friends. "It's been a family tradition (since) I was a little girl and after I got married we continued it."

Ora Hegerhorst enjoys the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Hegerhorst has been attending the parade for over 50 years.
Ora Hegerhorst enjoys the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Hegerhorst has been attending the parade for over 50 years.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

An estimated 250,000 people gathered to watch about 100 floats travel through downtown Salt Lake City from South Temple and State to Liberty Park on Wednesday's Days of '47 Parade.

The celebration, which started two years after Latter-day Saint pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, featured floats by city governments, businesses, universities, high school marching bands and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many groups expressed their own interpretation of this year's parade theme — Journey of Hope: A Pioneer’s Legacy — through their glittery floats and performances.

Hegerhorst and her family arrived at 5 a.m. to snag a front-row seat to the parade. As a veteran paradegoer, she's learned she doesn't need to camp out to find a good spot.

Yunung Lin marches with the Overseas Chinese LDS Pioneers Association in the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Yunung Lin marches with the Overseas Chinese LDS Pioneers Association in the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Early in the parade, the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, dressed in pioneer clothing, pulled handcarts and wagons, illustrating the journey Mormon pioneers took to get to Salt Lake City more than 170 years ago. The group was also joined by the Overseas Chinese LDS Pioneers.

The South Jordan Founders Park Stake, which created a giant whale float that illustrated a pioneer kid making a voyage across the ocean with sea creatures, won the parade's People's Choice Award.

The Children's Choice Award was given to the West Jordan Utah Stake. Its float illustrated a large ship sailing through bumpy waters with seahorses and other fish.

People stood up from their chairs and placed their hands on their hearts when Marine Corps soldiers and veterans walked through the parade.

For Elise Pawwinnee, of Woods Cross, attending the parade is a first for her and her family.

"I love the floats," she said. "It's different from a whole bunch of parades in Utah."

Amy Cox, of Lehi, said she hadn't visited the parade in nine years, and was glad to be back with her four children.

She said attending the parade is a "great way" to celebrate Pioneer Day and the lives of her ancestors.

"We have relatives that are pioneers and crossed the Plains to come here," she said.

Her 8-year-old daughter, Eliza Cox, said she was "excited" to learn about how pioneers got to Utah.

Among the parade's dignitaries was Elder Craig C. Christensen, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gov. Gary Hebert and first lady Jeanette Herbert waved at crowds during the parade followed by Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera.

First lady Jeanette Herbert and Gov. Gary Herbert pass by during the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
First lady Jeanette Herbert and Gov. Gary Herbert pass by during the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Adults and children confidently demonstrated their hometown pride when Real Salt Lake's float as well as floats from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University drove by.

The parade also featured Utah Valley University President Astrid S. Tuminez, who waved at crowds with her signature green pom-poms.

People watching from the streets and on the balconies of buildings cheered when they saw Mexican Consulate of Salt Lake City's horse riders and dancers, and more cheers arose as the Liahona Alumni Band and dancers marched along the route.

Enjoying the parade underneath a BYU-themed canopy, Ryan Baxter said the weather was perfect for Wednesday's event.

He said he appreciates the "down home" nature and creativity of floats made by church stakes.

Members of Mama's Temple Choir Church pass by during the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Members of Mama's Temple Choir Church pass by during the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

"It's fun to celebrate Pioneer Day and celebrate our heritage that established this city and to remember what people have done to give us what we have today," he said.

Some spent Tuesday night along the route, and awoke to the sounds of motorcycles and heavy crowds arriving to see the Days of '47 Parade.

As she folded blankets on an inflatable bed at the edge of the sidewalk Wednesday morning, Rebecca Richardson, of Clinton, said she arrived at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday with a group of 50 people to set up camp.

Other campers were still sleeping half an hour before the parade began, while others sat outside their tents waiting for the start.

She said arriving at the parade has been a five-year tradition for her and her friends.

Jodene Smith, chairwoman of the parade, said it's common for parade fans to camp overnight to attend the parade.

She based the parade's theme on the "hope" pioneers had to find a better place to live and raise their families in.

"When (pioneers) came across, they had hope in their hearts," she said.

She said preparation for the parade began last September and float applications opened in January.

"We hope that we bring a little bit of a variety of (float) entries that are unique and fun and interesting," she said.

At the end of the parade route at Liberty Park, the annual Native American Celebration in the Park Powwow was taking place and featured multiple vendors, arts and crafts and food stands to promote Native American culture.

The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts at Liberty Park also showcased the work of Native American artists.

Alissa Norman, of Sandy, said she's made it priority to attend the event the last two decades on each Pioneer Day.

"We come down here every year to celebrate the Native American culture and participate in the powwow events," she said.