Pioneer Day is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the American state of Utah, with some celebrations taking place in regions of surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers. It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, where the Latter-day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States. Parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities help commemorate the event. Similar to July 4, many local and all state-run government offices and many businesses are closed on Pioneer Day.
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). On Pioneer Day, some Latter-day Saints walk portions of the Mormon Trail or reenact entering the Salt Lake Valley by handcart. Latter-day Saints throughout the United States 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.
“Pioneers are those who take up their burdens & walk towards the Future.” Elder David B. Haight
Pioneer Day History
The earliest precursor to Pioneer Day celebrations in Utah occurred on July 24, 1849, when the Nauvoo Brass Band led a commemoration of the second anniversary of the Latter-day Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley.
The first celebration of Pioneer Day in 1857 was interrupted with news of the approach of Johnston’s Army, heralding the beginning of the Utah War. During the following occupation of the Utah Territory by federal troops, Pioneer Day was not celebrated. Once President Abraham Lincoln initiated a hands-off policy on Utah in 1862 during the American Civil War Pioneer Day was once again observed, and expanded into the surrounding areas as the Mormon Corridor spread throughout the Intermountain West. 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.