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BLOG, Culture and History, Events

Pioneer Day in Provo, Utah

By Katerina Gasset

Pioneer Day is a holiday unique to Utah. It is a time to honor all the Mormon pioneers who trecked their way from Nauvoo, Illinois to Utah.

Pioneer Day is a state holiday. Government offices, banks, and many other establishments are closed on Pioneer Day. 

If you think that the fireworks are amazing on Independence Day in Utah- wait til you see the fireworks for Pioneer Day!

The month of July is the full of amazing festivals, patriotic events, and the celebration of the hardships the pioneers went through trekking over 1,300 miles to make Utah a beautiful and prospering place for us all to enjoy today! 

I am so grateful to the Latter Day Saint pioneers! 

“No matter where you live, July 24 is a good time to remember what early Latter-day Saints did for us all.”

Is Pioneer Day a Mormon Holiday?

Post-fire Renovations of the Provo City Center Temple

Restored LDS Temple in Historic Downtown Provo

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), I can tell you that Pioneer Day is a big deal for us. 

It’s a holiday that marks the arrival of the first Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th, 1847, and it’s celebrated every year on that same date. 

These pioneers, led by Brigham Young, traveled across the country to escape religious persecution and find a new home in the West. 

But Pioneer Day is more than just a celebration of our ancestors’ arrival. It has also become a day for us to celebrate our faith and the blessings we enjoy as members of the LDS church. 

It’s a time for us to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who came before us. 

We celebrate by attending parades, fireworks displays, and other community events. We might also have family gatherings, eat traditional foods, and share stories about our pioneer ancestors. 

Many people outside the LDS church may not know about Pioneer Day or understand its significance. But for us, it’s a day to come together as a community. 

Is Pioneer Day a State Holiday in Utah? 

Pioneer is recognized as a legal state holiday in Utah. As a state holiday, many non-Mormons also join in on the festivities. 

Be aware that state government offices, businesses, and schools, will be closed on this day. So, be sure to plan your itinerary accordingly if you’re planning to visit Utah on July 24th. 

It’s also worth checking public transport schedules ahead of time. Some services may be limited or not running at all. 

But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all the exciting activities that Pioneer Day has to offer! You can check out the parade, fireworks displays, live music and delicious food. 

By participating in the celebrations, you’ll get a deeper appreciation for the rich history that makes Utah such a special place. 

Pioneer is just one of the many state holidays that Utah recognizes. Utah Statehood Day is also celebrated to mark the day when Utah became the 45th state to join the United States in 1986. 

And let’s not forget about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, and Independence Day. 

Be sure to enjoy some quality time with the locals if you’re ever in Utah on one of these holidays. 

How Far Did the Pioneers Travel to Utah? 

The journey of the pioneers to Utah covered a distance of 1,300 miles, starting from Winter Quarters in Nebraska and ending in Salt Lake City. That’s like walking from New York City to Miami, Florida! 

But that’s not even the whole journey. The trek actually began in Nauvoo, Illinois, which was a 265-mile journey itself. 

The pioneers weren’t seeking adventure or riches like many other pioneers of the time. Instead, they were searching for religious freedom and a way to maintain their cultural identity, which had been threatened by persecution. 

This journey wasn’t an easy one. They faced all sorts of challenges that are hard to even fathom today. They battled harsh weather conditions, traveled through difficult terrain, and had limited supplies. 

Some pioneers traveled by foot, while others traveled by wagon or handcart. Many of them even walked the entire distance! Can you imagine walking 1,300 miles? 

Their perseverance is truly admirable. Despite all the hardships they faced, from blistered feet to illnesses, the pioneers made it to Utah several months later. Some even arrived as late as 1850!

That’s how tough this journey was. And it wasn’t just a small group of people, either. There were over 70,000 pioneers who made the journey during that time period. 

The route they took became known as the Mormon Trail, which is now a National Historic Trail

There are museums and historic sites you can visit if you want to learn more about the Mormon Trail and the pioneers’ journey to Utah. The pioneer’s journey is an important part of American history, and one that continues to inspire us to this day. 

What is the Purpose of Pioneer Day? 

Pioneer Day is more than just a day off from work or school. It’s a time to remember and celebrate the sacrifices made by the early pioneers who left their homes in Illinois in search of a safe place to live after their prophet, Joseph Smith, was murdered by a mob. 

These pioneers faced countless obstacles. They were persecuted for their religious beliefs and had to travel for days on end to find a peaceful place to call home. 

Can you imagine how hard that would be? 

The purpose of this holiday is to celebrate the pioneers’ sacrifices, hard work, and dedication to building a new community from scratch. It’s a day to remember their contributions to the development of Utah and the broader history of the United States. 

As a Utah resident, it’s also a day to celebrate our culture and traditions. 

Even if you’re not from Utah or a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the celebration is worth being a part of. 

There are parades and fun contests happening throughout the state of Utah. It’s a festive and lively atmosphere where you can learn more about the history of Utah and the pioneers who helped shape it. 

How Do Mormons Celebrate Pioneer Day? 

Here are a few different ways Mormons like to honor the pioneers. 

1. Pioneer Day Parades

Many of us attend parades that are held in our local communities. It’s so much fun to watch floats go by and listen to marching bands play. These events are often free and open to the public. 

Many communities all over Utah hold their own parades, so there’s always one to attend no matter where you are. One of the most popular events include the Days of ‘47 Parade in Salt Lake City. 

2. Pioneer Day Games

Pioneer Day games and activities are a big hit on this day. We love to play fun games like sack races, three-legged races, and even pie-eating contests. 

It’s a great way to get the whole family involved and have fun. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even participate in a pioneer-themed obstacle course!

3. Pioneer Day Reenactments

Many communities organize pioneer reenactments, where actors portray scenes from the pioneer area. These reenactments are a fun and educational way for us to learn about the daily lives of the pioneers and the challenges they faced. 

Actors dress up in traditional pioneer clothing and act out scenes from the pioneer era, like wagon crossing the trail and pioneers building their homes. It’s really something special to see!

4. Eating Traditional Pioneer Foods

Perhaps the most popular way to celebrate Pioneer Day is by having a picnic or barbecue. It’s a classic American tradition and a great way to spend time with family and friends. 

We also enjoy traditional pioneer foods. Some of these include homemade bread, stew, and pie. These were foods that our pioneer ancestors relied on, and we enjoy them as a way of connecting with our past. 

5. Pioneer Day Crafts and Projects

Another popular way to celebrate Pioneer Day is through pioneer crafts and projects. It’s a time when Mormons showcase their creativity and resourcefulness by creating crafts that reflect the pioneer era. 

You can get creative and make things like quilts, wooden toys, and woven baskets. It’s a great way to appreciate the pioneers’ ability to make beautiful and useful things out of limited resources. 

6. Pioneer Day Camping Trip

Some families like to use Pioneer Day as an opportunity to take their kids on a pioneer trek. This is a multi-day hiking and camping trip that recreates the pioneers’ journey to Utah. 

It’s a great way for young people to connect with their heritage and learn more about the pioneers’ experiences. 

7. Dressing Up in Pioneer Clothing

Many Mormons like to dress up in pioneer clothing. It’s a great way to show respect and honor our pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains in search of religious freedom. Women often wear long dresses, bonnets, and aprons, while men wear suspenders, hats, and long-sleeved shirts. 

It’s pretty fun to see how everyone gets into character and embodies the spirit of the pioneers. 

8. VIsiting Pioneer-Themed Art Exhibits

One popular way to celebrate is by checking out some of the pioneer-themed art and exhibits around Utah. You can find these exhibits at museums, galleries, and cultural centers. 

These displays showcase all sorts of artworks, historical documents, and art that relate to the pioneers’ journey to Utah. 

9. Attending Pioneer Day Church Services

Many Mormons attend church services on Pioneer Day. We sing hymns and listen to talks about the pioneers and their amazing journey. It’s a meaningful way to reflect on their sacrifices and the blessings we enjoy today because of them. 

10. Another way we celebrate Pioneer Day is by participating in service projects. Our pioneer ancestors were known for their hard work and selflessness, so we strive to embody those same qualities by giving back to our communities. 

For example, some of us may spend the day cleaning up a local park, planting trees, or picking up trash. Others volunteer at a homeless shelter, handing out food and supplies to those in need. 

Some of us may even spend time at a community center, organizing events and providing support to those who need it most. Whatever the activity, it’s always done with the intention of making the world a better place. 

11. Visiting Historic Sites in Provo and Other Cities of Utah

You can visit some of the many historic sites in Utah. This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City is an excellent option. It’s a beautiful park that recreates pioneer life with period buildings, gardens, and demonstrations. 

You can also visit the Temple Square, one of the most iconic places in Utah, or walk along the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail and see some of the landmarks of pioneer history. 

12. Pioneer Day Rodeo

You might want to check out the Pioneer Day Rodeo. Rodeos have a long history in the American West, and they’re beloved among Mormons as a way to showcase our skills and grit. You’ll often see events like bull riding, barrel racing, and team roping at Pioneer Day rodeos. 

It’s a thrilling experience that brings together the community in a fun and exciting way. 

13. Pioneer Day Fireworks

It wouldn’t be Pioneer Day without fireworks. Many communities hold a fireworks display to end the day of celebrating. It’s always so much fun to watch the sky light up with colors as we remember the resilience and determination of our pioneer ancestors. 

It’s really up to you how you want to celebrate Pioneer Day. But one thing is for sure - it’s a day that feels like no other. It’s a chance for us to connect with our past and be grateful for all that our pioneer ancestors sacrificed for us. 

So whether you’re a Mormon or not, I encourage you to take part in the festivities and learn a little about our history. 

Why Do Mormons Settle in Utah? 

Back in the early 1830s, Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette, New York. But unfortunately, him and his followers faced a lot of violence and persecution from non-Mormon residents in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. 

They needed a new home where they could practice their religion freely and build a community based on their values and beliefs. 

In 1846, Brigham Young, who was the new leader of the LDS Church, led a group a Mormon pioneers on a journey westward from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. 

By why did they choose Utah? 

One reason was that Utah was mostly uninhabited at the time. This meant Mormons could practice their faith without persecution or interference from non-Mormon neighbors. 

This was a huge relief for the pioneers, who had faced so much violence and persecution in the past. 

Another important reason for settling in Utah was the concept of Zion. The pioneers saw it as a sign from God that Utah was the place where they could establish Zion - a place of refuge and righteousness. 

They believed that they were building a new Jerusalem, a place where they could be close to God and live according to His will. 

When the Mormon pioneers settled in Utah, they built a thriving community based on principles of hard work, self-sufficiency, and mutual cooperation. They worked together to irrigate the land, build homes and schools, and establish businesses. 

Today, Utah is still a center of the Mormon faith, with the headquarters of the LDS Church and many of its members located there. But beyond the Mormon community, Utah is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. 

What Holidays Do Mormon Celebrate? 

As a Mormon, I get pretty excited about all the different holidays we get to celebrate throughout the year. 

First up is Christmas. Just like other Christians, we celebrate this holiday on December 25th to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. We attend church services, sing carols, have family gatherings, and exchange gifts. It’s a time to embrace the spirit of love, giving, and kindness. 

Then there’s Easter. It’s all about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We go to special church services, read scriptures, and even have Easter egg hunts with our kids. Definitely one of the most important holidays for us. 

Pioneer Day is a fun celebration and a state holiday in Utah. Pioneer Day is celebrated through awesome events in Provo...

Pioneer Day Celebration in Utah

Next, we have Pioneer Day. This holiday is unique to Mormons and is celebrated on July 24th. We celebrate the arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley back in 1847, led by Brigham Young. 

We celebrate with parades, fireworks, and other fun activities. 

Of course, there are other events that are important to us too, like General Conference. This takes place twice a year, in April and October. We listen to our church leaders give sermons about all kinds of topics related to our faith. 

We can even watch it from home if we can’t make it in person. 

Though it’s not a holiday exactly, it’s still an important event that brings us together and strengthens our faith in God. It’s an inspiring and uplifting event, and I always look forward to it. 

Lastly, we have Family Home Evening. You can read more about FHE by clicking the link to the blog post.  This isn’t a holiday, either, but it’s something that we do every week. We often have a lesson or discussion about our faith, but we also play games, do crafts, or have treats together. It’s a nice way to break up the week and spend quality time with our loved ones.

Who is Considered a Utah Pioneer? 

Being a pioneer is not just about arriving in Utah before 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed. 

Pioneer Day is one of my favorite holidays. It commemorates the roots of my beliefs in a fun yet meaningful way here in Provo Utah...

The true meaning of Pioneer Day

Being a pioneer means you were one of the brave souls who left everything behind and traveled across the country to settle in a new place where you could live and worship according to your beliefs. 

Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for them? They faced all sorts of challenges. 

Think about it – they had to deal with harsh weather, illness, and hunger. But they didn’t give up. They were determined to create a new home for themselves and their loved ones. That’s what made them pioneers. 

You might have heard of some of the famous pioneers in Utah’s history, like Brigham Young, who led the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley, or Parley P. Pratt, an early leader in the Mormon Church who played a big role in Utah’s settlement.  

There’s also Mary Fielding Smith, a pioneer woman who traveled to Utah with her children after her husband died and helped establish a farming settlement. 

But there were many other pioneers whose stories haven’t been told. Women, Native Americans, and people of other races and ethnicities all contributed to Utah’s growth as well. 

What Are Some Ways People Celebrate Pioneer Day? 

1. Provo Pioneer Village 

Have you visited the Provo Pioneer Village yet? If not, you’re missing out on one of the coolest historic sites in Provo, Utah! This picturesque village offers an authentic, immersive experience of pioneer life. 

One of the best things about the Provo Pioneer Village is that it’s run entirely by passionate volunteers who are dedicated to preserving history. 

And guess what? A visit to the Provo Pioneer Village won’t cost you a single penny. It’s completely free! You can explore all the original structures, wagons, and shops without spending a dime. 

As you arrive in the village, you’ll find around 20 parking spots available in the parking lot between the Pioneer Village and the DUP Pioneer Museum. 

But in case they’re full, you can park your car at the Provo Recreation Center, just a two-minute walk away. 

Check out the Docent Tours if you’re looking for a guided tour. These knowledgeable and entertaining guides will take you on a 90-minute journey through the village, where you’ll hear fascinating stories at each stop. 

But if you prefer to go at your own pace, don’t worry! You can choose a self-guided tour, complete with audio boxes that give you all the information you need. 

As you wander through the village, you’ll get to step inside original structures like the Turner Cabin, Haws Cabin, Loveless Home, and a school. 

You’ll also see a working blacksmith shop, a mercantile general store, a woodshop, and even an outhouse. 

But it’s not just the structures that are impressive. The village also offers demonstrations of blacksmithing, wheel making, wagon making, and even ox shoeing. 

The storytelling sessions are a real treat too! You’ll learn about everything from building techniques and milling to pioneer stories, schooling, and transportation. 

Don’t forget the pioneer games for the kids to enjoy! 

The village is located in the Provo North Park, just a short walk from the Provo City Recreation Center and Swimming Pool. You can easily make a whole day of it with your family and friends. 

One of the best parts of visiting the Provo Pioneer Village is that it’s not just a captivating place to visit. It’s also an educational resource. 

You’ll learn about the pioneering lifestyle, gain a deep appreciation for the settlers who came before us, and see firsthand how they crafted, built, and survived in harsh conditions. 

The Provo Pioneer Village is always looking for a volunteer help. You can become a gatekeeper, docent/tour guide, craft person, maintenance crew, or even help out with social media. 

Check here for the details on how you can get involved. It’s one way to make a difference in your community and contribute to preserving history. 

Plan your visit to the Provo Pioneer Village and experience the pioneer way of life. It’s a rare gem right in the heart of Provo, and it’s waiting for you to discover it. 

2. Pioneer Day Extravaganza

This event is the perfect place for you and your family to create unforgettable memories. 

Let loose and dance to some of the best toe-tapping tunes and performances around. Then dive right in and compete in friendly contests, test your skills in exciting games, and let your creativity shine with hands-on crafts. 

You never know, you might even win one of the many contests that will be taking place throughout the day. 

The Pioneer Day Extravaganza also offers rides for all the thrill-seekers out there! There’s no shortage of adrenaline-fueled fun here. 

3. This is the Place Heritage Park

On July 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., This is The Place Heritage Park will be alive with excitement. 

This is the Place Heritage Park is a one-stop-shop for all things Utah history, culture, and entertainment. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Pioneer day with your family and friends. 

The first thing you should know is that the Candy Cannon is a must-see event. You’ll get to experience a rain of delicious, old-fashioned taffy as it showers Main Street. It’s a sweet way to start your fun-filled day at This is The Place Heritage Park. 

But the candy cannon is just the beginning. There are so many games and activities to enjoy. 

I highly recommend joining in on some of the park’s famous contests. You can test your skills are at the Watermelon Eating Contest. 

Don’t forget about the food. Brigham’s Donuts are a must-try. These delicious treats are located inside the Social Hall, making it easy to indulge in a sugary heaven before diving back into the action. 

What really sets This is The Place Heritage Park apart is its commitment to providing an immersive experience. You can pan for gold, ride ponies and trains, engage in art and craft projects, and so much more. 

You’ll truly feel like you’re stepping back in time as you explore the park’s diverse attractions. 

When you’re ready for a break, head over to the Huntsman Grill for a delicious lunch. Why not indulge in a giant Flavor Burst Ice cream cone if you’re craving something sweet? 

You can buy your tickets for This is The Place Heritage Park here

4. Temple to Temple Run

The Temple to Temple Run is one of the most exciting races, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate Pioneer Day. 

The race starts at the Provo LDS temple and takes you through some of the most charming streets of Provo. You’ll even pass by the vibrant BYU campus! 

The finish line is at the Provo City Center LDS temple, giving you a sense of accomplishment as you complete this thrilling race. 

There are a few different categories you can choose from based on your preference. Go for the standard 5K if you’re looking to push yourself to a personal best. 

You can opt for the 5K with a t-shirt if you want a memento of the race. The 5K with a Tek shirt is perfect for you if comfort is more your thing. 

One of the best things about this run is the sense of community that comes with it. You’ll be surrounded by fellow participants, who are all buzzing with excitement for the big race. 

You can join the Temple to Temple 5K Run/Walk Community on Facebook to connect with even more people who share your passion for running. 

Register in advance and get all the details you need. 

5. Pedal Provo Ghost Tours

Get ready to hop on your bike and explore the haunted side of Provo. Peda through the streets and stop at various historical locations, where your knowledgeable guide will share thrilling ghost stories. 

It’s a perfect blend of history and supernatural that’s sure to give you goosebumps. 

The Pedal Provo Ghost Tours offers two distinct routes to choose from.

The Cemetery & City Edition will take you through the west side of the Provo Cemetery, where you’ll uncover spine-chilling tales. Even if you’ve been on this tour before, there are new ghost stories waiting to be discovered this year. 

Meanwhile, the River Trail Edition will lead you along the Provo River Trail. This tour is not for the faint-hearted, as the trail has its own chilling history that will leave you captiavetd and creeped out. 

As you pedal though the darkness, your guide will share ghostly stories that will send shivers down your spine. 

During Pioneer Day, Pedal Ghost Tours is the ultimate adventure to add to your itinerary. It’s the perfect activity to do with your family or friends on this special day. 

Founded in 2016, Pedal Provo Ghost Tours is not your ordinary tour company. Their mission is to provide one of the best things to do in Provo, and they deliver on that promise. 

You don’t have to be an expert ghost-hunter to enjoy this tour - it’s perfect for anyone who loves a good, spooky story.  

This experience is perfect for a first date, a night out with your partner, exploring with a group of friends, or embarking on a solo ghost-hunting adventure. 

Book your tickets now and brace yourself for a thrilling journey you’ll never forget! 

Follow Pedal Provo Ghost Tours on Facebook and Instagram for more information.

6. Historic Provo Buildings Walking Tour 

This tour takes you on a journey back in time to explore 22 pioneer buildings that date all the way back to 1849-1920. 

You won’t be able to go inside, but you’ll still get to appreciate their beauty and unravel the tales of Provo’s early days. 

What’s great about this walking tour is that it’s self-guided. All you need is the Historic Provo Walking Tour Brochure and map, which you can either print out or have on your phone. You can take things at your own pace and explore the buildings that interest you the most. 

These trusty companions will be key to unlocking the hidden secrets behind each building. You’ll see facts about the historic mansions, churches, government buildings, museums, and more. Each building tells a unique story. 

It’s amazing to see how these pioneer landmarks have stood the test of time. 

Is Mail Delivered in Pioneer Day in Utah?

Back in the pioneer era, mail delivery was a real struggle. The Pony Express had a tough time navigating the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. 

But nowadays, Utah’s postal services have evolved to provide efficient mail and package deliveries. However, during holidays like Pioneer Day, some adjustments might occur to account for the festivities

Physical mail delivery might be affected on Pioneer Day, but don’t worry, though. You still have plenty of online options available to you.

USPS’s website and automated systems provide easy access to postal services. You can track your packages, schedule redelivery, and even find details on any postal services at the click of a button. 

I recommend planning ahead to ensure you’re up-to-date on all the details. You can check the USPS website for official announcements or specific instructions about mail delivery or post office hours during the holiday.


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About the author of Move to Provo Utah Website 

Katerina Gasset

When I moved here I was blessed to have my daughter to help with different things you need to know when you move to a new place. I had background from living here before but things have changed a lot too since the '80s. 

We were able to get all the good places to eat down fast - since she knows all that and we have a lot of the same likes in food. But things like how to turn on my electricity or what power company services my home... well... I was at a total loss! 

I know that other people moving to Provo don't always have family here to guide and help them. And most people don't have a real estate agent who gives them a welcome package on all the important numbers and places they need to know. 

My goal is for this website to be your go to resource for everything you need to know before, during, and after you move here to Provo, Utah. I want you to have the best experience and love living here as much as I do

Author Katerina Gasset - photo of me the author