Pioneer Day

Pioneer Day is a holiday that’s celebrated on the 24th of July and is an official holiday in the U.S state of Utah. This holiday commemorates the first group of Mormons led by Brigham Young to pioneer into Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. This is where the Mormons settled after they had been forced to leave Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations across the U.S. This holiday is not only observed in Utah, however, but is also observed in some of the regions surrounding the state. It’s a day that’s usually observed with parades, fireworks, and rodeos. Some people have likened the festivities to the 4th of July celebrations, except this holiday doesn’t celebrate the birth of a nation but instead celebrates the courage of the Mormon pioneers who worked to make better lives for themselves. 

The History Of Pioneer Day

After the death of their prophet and leader Joseph Smith in 1844, Brigham Young and a group of Mormons decided to leave Nauvoo, Illinois to head west. They were in fear of persecution and in search of a land that they could call their home. They wanted to make sure that they chose a location that was isolated so they braved the wilds of the west as they traveled across the plains and the Rocky Mountains. During the trip, many members of their party died due to disease during the winter months. 

They entered Utah’s Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, and after their arduous journey was quick to want to settle what they felt was the promised land. The party erected a dam, planted crops such as potatoes and turnips, and consecrated the new city. They then sent word back that the promised land had been found and that faithful Mormons should make the journey out west. By the end of the year, the number of pioneers in the area ballooned to 2000 people.

In 1849, the first Pioneer Day was celebrated by Mormons living in the area. They celebrated the event with band music thanks to the Nauvoo Brass Band, speeches, prayer, and a parade. Over the next few years, Pioneer Day was celebrated faithfully every July 24th, with the exception of the celebration in 1857. During that year, festivities were interrupted with the beginning of the Utah Expedition and the approach of Johnston’s Army. 

This year, U.S President James Buchanan sent forces to the Utah Territory. The Mormons fearful that they were going to be destroyed by the U.S government, a fear that was the result of their persecution in other parts of the country, led them to prepare for their own defense. The Mormons repaired and manufactured firearms, made bayonets out of their scythes, and sharpened sabers. 

As a result of the ongoing conflict between the Mormons and the U.S federal government, no Pioneer Day celebrations were held until 1862. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincon started a hands-off policy that year and this is when Pioneer Day celebrations started up again. However, celebrations weren’t always as festive as they once were. This was especially true while the federal government was enforcing anti-polygamy laws such as the Edmunds Act. 

In 1886, Pioneer Day celebrations took a tone of mourning as the main focus of the holiday was to eulogize the Latter-day Saints who were imprisoned for polygamy offenses or had to go into hiding. In 1897, the holiday regained its usually festive nature and it not only celebrated the 50th anniversary of Mormon pioneers finding their new home, but also the completion of Salt Lake Temple, and celebrations related to Utah becoming a U.S State. 

Nowadays, the holiday is extremely popular and generates a ton of road traffic. Although July 4th celebrations result in the highest road traffic in the state of Utah, Pioneer comes in at a close second. Over the last few years, Pioneer Day has received some criticism from people who feel that this holiday lacks inclusiveness for people who aren’t of the Mormon faith. Some people have decided to celebrate Pie and Beer Day on this day instead of Pioneer Day as a result. As some people who are reading this may have guessed, Pie and Beer Day is a holiday that’s a play on words because when said quickly it sounds like Pioneer Day. 

Observing Pioneer Day

There are a variety of different ways to observe Pioneer Day. For people living in Utah, there’s always an abundance of parades, musical bands, and speeches to enjoy. There are also usually other events such as fairs and rodeos held on this day as well. However, this isn’t just a day that has to be celebrated by Mormons in Utah. It’s also a day that people all over the country can celebrate. A good way to observe this holiday is by learning more about the Mormons and how they helped shape the history of the U.S. You can also learn about the arduous path that Mormon pioneers took to get to Utah. People can also use the hashtag #PioneerDay on social media to spread the word about this holiday. 

Some people observe Pie & Beer Day on this day as sort of a counterculture response to Pioneer Day. While the combination of pie and beer doesn’t sound all that appetizing, it is something that has become popular over the last few years. The first Pie & Beer Day started on July 24, 2014, and it’s been growing ever since. Some brewing companies have even jumped on the bandwagon and have offered beer specials on this day. 

Since Pioneer Day is a state holiday in Utah, many educational institutions and businesses are closed. Some government offices are closed on this day as well. In some parts of the state, public transportation doesn’t run on this holiday or runs with reduced hours. And because of the popularity of this holiday, roads are likely to be busy. All things to think about when planning any trip to Utah to partake in Pioneer Day celebrations. 

Where is Pioneer Day celebrated?

United states - Utah Show all 1 locations