Monday, July 25, 2005

Pioneer Day or an Excuse to Get the Kids Out of the House

We celebrate the 24th of July as Pioneer Day because it is the anniversary of the day that the first Mormon pioneer company, led by Brigham Young, caught glimpse of the surprisingly arid Salt Lake valley, and dear Brigham uttered the famous words: “This is the right place.” They entered the desert and made it bloom.

Here’s what Pioneer Day means to me:

Growing up everywhere BUT Utah, Pioneer Day meant getting dressed up in pioneer garb (yes, we had some because I think that as Mormons you are required to keep pioneer outfits in your food storage supply…in case we have to trek back to Missouri or something…), go to some park with as little shade as possible, eat bad picnic food, sweat a lot, be coerced into playing “pull the stick” which requires an uncomfortable amount of physical contact with a practical stranger, asking to go home a lot, and getting cranky.

As a young child, we (the sibs and I) sang songs of the pioneers, heard stories, visited Church history sites, participated in outdoor stage productions depicting said pioneers, and were generally immersed in the idea that pioneers were nothing less than superheroes, which I still do not dispute.

In Utah, the 24th of July is set aside as a state holiday. Most people get the day off work! (Although, if the holiday, ANY holiday for that matter, falls on Sunday, it gets bumped to Monday, like this year).

But it wasn’t until I visited my grandparents in Bountiful for the whole month of July in 1984 that I realized the extent to which Pioneer reverence was carried out. There are parades, fireworks, picnics, and barbeques(and if you DON’T live in Utah, lots of primary and ward activities held in said shade-less parks). Grandma and Grandpa took me and a bushel of cousins to Sugar House Park to watch sky divers, eat candied apples, and see the best fireworks EVA! This is the right way to celebrate a pioneer!

It was a magical day…although looking back, I might not have known it wasn’t the 4th of July. But never mind, I live in Utah now (purely by accident) and I love the extra holiday. I love that people set off fireworks and that I can smell barbeques cooking all day. I love that people still dress up as pioneers and re-enact the trek down the canyon into the valley.

Where ever we end up, will I make my future posterity dress in frilly calico and endure the shade-less July heat? Probably, because I think you cannot be called a true Mormon unless you have experienced this rite of passage or have been refined in the refiner’s fire…and I think this pretty much counts.

9 comments:

Suzie Petunia said...

Happy belated Pioneer Day! You forgot about the 10K and marathon in SLC! I miss celebrating the 24th Utah-style. It's just not the same here in Oregon. Our ward commemorates the day with a huge, sweaty service project (sans pioneer garb)... Wish I could have celebrated with you!

Lisa M. said...

I love Pioneer day. I am a pioneer type freak. The only DUP member even twice my age in our group!

Thank you for sharing your memories with us!

Carrie Ann said...

Yeah...I didn't exactly FORGET about the 10K and the marathon...that's just not my style of celebration...torture, yes...celebration/fun, no...we'll leave that to you crazy, in-shape people...

mo said...

You really hit a memory nerve with this blog. As a child growing up in Utah I thought the 4th of July was just a weak warmup for the 24th which got all the top billing, decorations, celebrations, and hoopla. It was as big as Christmas in Bountiful, Utah! One year I got to be on a float for the parade that made it's way down Main St. I was one of about 20 little primary kids dressed up like a little brown crickets in a wheat field, complete with clear plastic wings and little tight brown aviator hats with antenna on our heads. Looming over us in the air was a humongous seagull with a 25 foot wing span. It's a wonder we were not all in therapy for the next ten years. Actually, it's a fun memory. I loved the fireworks (much bigger than on the 4th), and the pioneer costumes, and all the stories. Thanks for the memory trigger and a Happy Pioneer Day one and all!

Carrie Ann said...

Ahhh...those were the days, Mo. Back before Child Protective Services interfered with everything...

Alice said...

"coerced into playing “pull the stick” which requires an uncomfortable amount of physical contact with a practical stranger"

Carrie Ann. Pioneer Day to me is the Parade in SLC... this stuff you are talking about has me lost.

christopher clark said...

Pioneer Day sort of sucks in Provo. We don't do anything. We knock ourselves out on the 4th and then sort of limp through the 24th. Ever noticed that?

Amy Lynn said...

I seriously can't type right now because I am still shedding hilarious laughing tears over Mo's story of the crickets and the seagull...must get control...must get air.

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