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Bountiful Handcart Days are canceled, concert and fireworks may still happen

Uncertainty about when COVID-19 restrictions would be eased led to the ‘difficult’ decision

Wyatt Burnett, 6, relaxes in the back of a handcart during the Bountiful Handcart parade in Bountiful on Friday, July 19, 2019.
Wyatt Burnett, 6, relaxes in the back of a handcart during the Bountiful Handcart parade in Bountiful on Friday, July 19, 2019.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

BOUNTIFUL — Citing “unprecedented circumstances” organizers of 70-year-old Bountiful Handcart Days announced that most of the 2020 events have been canceled.

“Organizing and preparing a large event like Handcart Days takes months of preparation from hundreds of volunteers,” organizers said in a news release. “The social distancing restrictions that are currently in place, with no certain end in sight, prohibit the planning and work needed now to have an excellent Handcart Days celebration.”

Organizers said the uncertainty of when restrictions might be lifted — or even eased — make it unrealistic to try and plan an event of the size and quality of Handcart Days, which was scheduled for July 17 and 18. There was a parade scheduled for Friday, July 17, at 6 p.m. with park activities scheduled for both Friday and Saturday. A half marathon, 5K and 1K were scheduled for Saturday, July 18.

It’s another sentimental loss, especially for those with deep ties to the event that began in 1950.

“I have a deep personal connection with it,” said Josher Hansen. “My dad was the director of the Handcart Days festival from 1995-2001, and it was also my first half marathon.”

The half marathon was also his 180th, which was a goal he set in 2011 and achieved in the 2018 race.

“It’s been a whole festival and celebration not just for me as a runner, but for our whole family,” he said, acknowledging that it means a lot to the entire community. “It’s sad to see these traditions kind of go, but they’re not going away forever.”

Hansen said he hopes there will be some way they can commemorate, if not this summer, then next year.

“I think if we make it special in some regard, we’ll remember that one year in 2020 when we couldn’t have the race or the parade,” he said. “But we’ll remember how we came together as a community in some other way.”

The stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements make everything from float building to school band practices impossible.

“It’s also prudent to not invest time and money in planning, ordering food and other supplies not knowing when the current restrictions will be lifted,” the news release said. “When the restrictions are eventually lifted, we anticipate there will not be enough time to complete preparations and provide the excellent Handcart Days celebrations we have all come to expect.”

Organizers consulted with Bountiful City officials and the health department before making “the difficult decision” to cancel the parade and activities. Officials are still hoping that restrictions will be eased by July, enabling them to still have a performance from the band Joshua Creek at Mueller Park, which is scheduled to be followed by a free fireworks show.