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Thousands of Utahns celebrate return of this Days of '47 tradition

Cariama Kallon-Olayemi dances and sings as a marching band passes by during the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021.

Cariama Kallon-Olayemi dances and sings as a marching band passes by during the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Days of '47 Parade has been a part of Leah Muse's life for over half a century.

She loves "just the beauty, the exquisite beauty of the thing, the history."

"Even in the '40s and '50s, I remember coming from Idaho, and then coming from California. We managed to come here each year," Muse said.

After the pandemic canceled last year's Pioneer Day event, Utahns celebrated the return of the cherished tradition Friday in downtown Salt Lake City. Thousands showed up and found shady spots to watch dozens of colorful floats showcasing aspects of the Beehive State's pioneer heritage, an array of vintage vehicles, fire trucks, horseback riders and musical groups.

Cheers erupted as music boomed through the downtown streets from high school marching bands hailing from across the state.

A woman straddles two horses in the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021.
A woman straddles two horses in the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Muse said she has pioneer heritage and her family lost ancestors who made the trek to Salt Lake City "so it means a lot" to celebrate their history.

The Young family lives in an apartment building near Temple Square, and they look forward to watching out of their window or going down to the sidewalk to view it each year, said mom Allison Young.

"I like watching the floats, watching the people in costume," 13-year-old Meghan Young said.

As the parade kicked off, her sister, 4-year-old Lauren Young, pointed down the street to a glittery float that was about to pass by. She was too young to remember the last time she attended before the pandemic.

It's a tradition long in the making for the family.

"When my children were this age, we rented a hotel room in the Little America" to see the parade, said grandma Diane Barlow. "It was so fun. We did that for years."

Christie Campbell, holding a grandson and surrounded by several other grandchildren near State Street, said her family used to attend every year ever since she was a child before she moved to Arizona for 27 years.

"And this is what we missed. We missed it last year, we weren't going to miss it this year," she said.

Mele Takuvaka waves flags and cheers as she watches the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021.
Mele Takuvaka waves flags and cheers as she watches the Days of '47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

For the Lees, the parade is a relatively new tradition. They attend the Sunrise Service at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in the morning and then walk over to view the parade.

They enjoy the "spectacle" and "people watching," VaLon Lee said.

"We come every year, and we generally watch from this general area," Chad Mortensen said.

He said they've attended the popular parade 15 out of the last 20 years.

"I've been in the parade twice, and I've been here probably 60 years. We haven't missed very many," his mom, Susan Mortensen added.

"It's just fun to see everyone together. See the floats," she said

Miss Bluffdale waves from the city's float in the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. The float won the Ensign Award.
Miss Bluffdale waves from the city's float in the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. The float won the Ensign Award. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

"I like all the heritage of it, all the floats, all the work that goes into them," Chad Mortensen said.

They said they were happy the parade is back after the pandemic shut down last year's parade for the first time in decades. The parade, one of the country's oldest, had only ever been canceled during World War I and World War II.

The city of Sandy's float makes its way along the Days of '47 Parade route in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. The won the Mayor's Award, which is given to the city float that best inspires progress, growth and/or diversity.
The city of Sandy's float makes its way along the Days of '47 Parade route in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. The won the Mayor's Award, which is given to the city float that best inspires progress, growth and/or diversity. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

The parade theme this year was "Pioneer Spirit: Alive Today." Here are Friday's award-winning floats:

  • Days of '47 Sweepstakes Award: South Jordan Garden Park Stake
  • Theme Award: Cottonwood Heights
  • Outstanding Animation Award: Draper Utah Meadows Stake
  • Ensign Award: Bluffdale City Royalty
  • People's Choice Award: Draper Utah Stake
  • Children's Choice Award: Draper Utah Stake
  • President's Award: First Community Bank
  • Queen's Award: KSL 5 TV
  • Mayor's Award: City of Sandy
  • Community Award: South Jordan Midas Creek Stake
  • Brigham Young Award: Bountiful Utah East Stake
  • Governor Award: City of South Jordan
  • Spirit of Faith Award: Salt Lake Granite Stake
  • Legacy Award: Salt Lake Utah Hunter Copperhill Stake
  • Utah Award: Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton
  • Daughters of Utah Pioneers Award: West Jordan Jordan Oaks Stake
  • Pioneers Award: West Jordan Westbrook Stake
  • Hilda Erickson Award: Midvale Utah Stake
  • Judges Choice Award: Days of '47 Royalty Float

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