Pioneer Day

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Pioneer Day
Re-enactment of Mormon pioneers in the 1912 Pioneer Day Parade at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City, Utah
Observed byUtah, United States
Significancecommemorates the first entry of Brigham Young and a group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847
Celebrationsparades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities
DateJuly 24
Next timeJuly 24, 2023 (2023-07-24)

Pioneer Day is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the American state of Utah,[1] with some celebrations taking place in regions of surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers.[2][3] It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847,[4] where the Latter-day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois,[5] and other locations in the eastern United States.[6] Parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities help commemorate the event. Similar to July 4, many local and all state-run government offices[1] and many businesses are closed on Pioneer Day.[7]

In addition to being an official holiday in Utah, Pioneer Day is considered a special occasion by many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[8][9] On Pioneer Day, some Latter-day Saints walk portions of the Mormon Trail or reenact entering the Salt Lake Valley by handcart.[10] Latter-day Saints throughout the United States[11][12] and around the world may celebrate July 24 in remembrance of the LDS Church's pioneer era, with songs, dances, potlucks, and pioneer related activities.[13][14]

While the holiday has strong links to the LDS Church, it is officially a celebration for everyone, regardless of faith and nationality, who immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley during the pioneer era, which is generally considered to have ended with the 1869 arrival of the transcontinental railroad.[15] Notable non-LDS American pioneers from this period include Episcopal Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, who was responsible for Utah's first non-Mormon schools (Rowland Hall-St. Mark's) and first public hospital (St. Mark's) in the late 19th century.[16] The Intertribal Powwow at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City honors the cultural heritage and contributions of the area's Native Americans, helping Utahns to gain a deeper understanding of the region's history.[17][18]


The interior of the Salt Lake Tabernacle as decorated for the Deseret Sunday School Union's July 1875 Pioneer Day celebration.

The earliest precursor to Pioneer Day celebrations in Utah occurred on July 24, 1849,[19] when the Nauvoo Brass Band led a commemoration of the second anniversary of the Latter-day Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley.[20]

The celebration of Pioneer Day in 1857 was interrupted with news of the approach of Johnston's Army, heralding the beginning of the Utah War.[21] Immediately following the occupation of the Utah Territory by federal troops, Pioneer Day was sparsely celebrated.[22] Pioneer Day continually expanded into the surrounding areas as the Mormon Corridor spread throughout the Intermountain West.[22] In 1880, Latter-day Saints commemorated the Golden Jubilee of the church's formal organization in 1830; tens of thousands of people in hundreds of communities participated in enthusiastic celebrations.[22]

In the years that followed, federal enforcement efforts of anti-polygamy laws (including the 1882 Edmunds Act) resulted in greatly subdued celebrations.[22] The 1886 commemoration was particularly notable for its mourning theme, with the Salt Lake Tabernacle decorated in black instead of the usually colorful bunting, and the eulogizing of Latter-day Saints who were in hiding or imprisoned for polygamy offenses.[22] By 1897, the celebration included not only the 50th anniversary of the initial arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, but also the end of the polygamy issue, the completion of the Salt Lake Temple, and statehood for Utah.[22]

The centennial in 1947 and the sesquicentennial in 1997 were especially large celebrations in Utah. One writer indicated that the 1947 celebrations seemed to incorporate the entire year, with July 24 only being an apex to the events.[23]

The holiday generates a great deal of road traffic; Utah Department of Public Safety statistics states Pioneer Day has the second highest holiday traffic fatality rate in Utah, with the earlier July 4 Independence Day having the highest rate.[24]

The holiday has received criticism for its lack of inclusiveness for non-Mormons.[25] As a result, a small, growing contingent has started celebrating Pie and Beer Day instead of the traditional Pioneer Day.[26] Pie and Beer day is a play on words: "pie and beer" sounds like "pioneer." Pie and Beer Day was created as a counter culture alternative.[27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Packard, David (July 15, 2009), "Pioneer Day in Pocatello, Idaho", Church News, LDS Church, retrieved August 5, 2013
  2. ^ Tanner, Eliza (September 1995), "Safe from the Storms", Ensign, LDS Church
  3. ^ Schindler, Harold (July 24, 1997), "Ailing Young Rolls Out of Canyon, Likes Look of the Salt Lake Valley", Salt Lake Tribune, Mormon Trail Series, Article ID: 100F84BB82E32C16. Reprinted with permission at Utah History to Go.
  4. ^ Sanford, Melissa (April 8, 2004). "Illinois Tells Mormons It Regrets Expulsion". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Today in History: July 24", American Memory, Library of Congress, retrieved August 5, 2013
  6. ^ Kofesh, Jessica (July 22, 2017), "Pioneer Day 2017: What's closed, open around Northern Utah", Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah
  7. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (October 2001), "Remarks at Pioneer Day Commemoration Concert", Ensign, LDS Church
  8. ^ Reynolds, Sydney Smith (June 1989), "They Belong to Us All", Liahona, LDS Church
  9. ^ "Mormons Celebrate Their Pioneer Heritage", Newsroom, LDS Church, July 23, 2009, retrieved August 5, 2013
  10. ^ McGrath, Rachel (July 26, 2009), "Mormons in Camarillo mark pioneers' Utah arrival in 1847", Ventura County Star, Camarillo, California, archived from the original on August 6, 2012
  11. ^ Rohrer, Grey (July 20, 2009), "Pioneer Days celebrate western migration", Cape Coral Daily Breeze, Cape Coral, Florida, retrieved August 5, 2013
  12. ^ Gaunt, LaRene Porter (April 2005), "Celebrate!", Ensign, LDS Church
  13. ^ Bailey, Tamara Leatham (July 1997), "For Your Info: Pioneer Parties", New Era, LDS Church, 13 (1–3): 341–356, doi:10.1023/A:1006550728250, S2CID 26050131
  14. ^ Greenleigh, Alicia (July 21, 2009), "Days of '47: The day when pioneers are cool", Salt Lake Tribune, archived from the original on June 15, 2013, retrieved August 5, 2013
  15. ^ Quinn, Frederick (2004), "Chapter 1: Daniel S. Tuttle, the pioneer bishop", Building the "Goodly Fellowship of Faith" – A History of the Episcopal Church in Utah – 1867–1996, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, ISBN 0874215935, OCLC 56347804
  16. ^ Mayorga, Carlos (July 20, 2008), "Powwow honors Indian culture", The Salt Lake Tribune, pp. D3, retrieved August 5, 2013. Archive Article ID: 9925806
  17. ^ Wharton, Tom (July 26, 2011), "American Indians celebrate culture at Liberty Park", The Salt Lake Tribune, retrieved August 5, 2013
  18. ^ Olsen, Steven L. (1996), "Celebrating Cultural Identity: Pioneer Day in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism", BYU Studies, 36 (1): 159–177, archived from the original on May 29, 2014, retrieved May 28, 2014
  19. ^ Purdy, William E. (July 1980), "They Marched Their Way West: The Nauvoo Brass Band", Ensign, LDS Church.
  20. ^ "The First Statewide Pioneer Day Celebration", Markers and Monuments Database, Utah Division of State History, Utah Department of Heritage & Arts, retrieved August 5, 2013
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Pioneer Day", Utah History Encyclopedia, University of Utah Press, 1994, archived from the original on October 21, 2013, retrieved August 5, 2013
  22. ^ Haddock, Marc (July 20, 2009), "Celebrating Pioneer Day in 1947", Deseret News, retrieved August 5, 2013
  23. ^ Holiday Deaths (Utah 1999–2008) (PDF), Utah Department of Public Safety, archived from the original (PDF) on October 21, 2013, retrieved August 5, 2013
  24. ^ Means, Sean P. (July 23, 2015), "Pioneer Day should reflect all of Utah's people", The Salt Lake Tribune, archived from the original on July 24, 2015
  25. ^ Stephenson, Kathy (July 24, 2015). "Pie and Beer Day an alternative to Utah's traditional Mormon holiday". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  26. ^ Tuttle, Brad (July 23, 2015). "Best Made-Up Holiday Ever? Celebrate 'Pie & Beer Day' on Friday". Archived from the original on May 27, 2022.
  27. ^ Dobner, Jennifer (July 24, 2014). "Pioneer Day of Mormons, Retooled for Saloon". New York Times.

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