The Founding of Salt Lake City and the 24th of July History

Pioneer Day, a Utah state holiday, rivals Independence Day here for the amount of celebration and sheer enthusiasm. Every year, July 24th commemorates the day in 1847 when the first group of intrepid, trail-tested pioneers reached the Salt Lake valley after a grueling and difficult journey, and their leader Brigham Young declared, “This is the right place.” Fueled by the desire for a fresh start after experiencing religious strife and being uprooted from their communities, they crossed 1,300 miles of untamed terrain in covered wagons or handcarts with limited belongings.

Their arrival presented another challenge: building a community in a wild outpost, thousands of miles from the civilization they had left. With the resources at hand, they constructed a city using wood, stone, and water from the valley. Their endeavors laid the foundation for modern-day Salt Lake City.

Pioneer Day Celebrations

Many of Pioneer Day’s events are either formally or informally associated in some way with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but you don't have to subscribe to any particular faith to get a kick out of the big dose of history and fun—or the enthusiasm with which Utahns relish it. The day isn’t just a religious holiday—it’s a celebration of everyone who emigrated to Utah during the pioneer era, and a chance for all of us to reflect on and revel in the pioneering spirit. Whether it’s your first Pioneer Day or your 50th, these are some of the best ways to have an incredible time on the 24th this year.

The Days of '47 Parade

The Days of '47 Parade is one of the oldest community parades in the United State, and is a long standing Salt Lake tradition. This beloved procession of floats, horses, clowns, bands, and entertainers begins at South Temple and State Street, runs east to 200 East, turns south to 900 South, and then heads east to Liberty Park. It is a popular event, and many people will camp out along the parade route in order to secure a prime spot, so if you can come early to find a good place to watch.

Native American Celebrations

While we remember the trekking adventurers who arrived in Salt Lake in 1847, we’d be remiss not to honor the people who were here long before them: Utah’s Native Americans. The 29th Annual Native American Celebration in the Park runs all day long on the 24th in Liberty Park and features the Annual Intertribal Powwow, food, arts and crafts, a laser light show, children's activities, and entertainment.

The Utah Days of ‘47 Rodeo

If you’re looking for something a little more gritty and adrenaline-fueled to celebrate the pioneer spirit and Utah’s western heritage, then get your tickets to the Utah Days of '47 Rodeo, this year running from July 19-22 and the 24th. National competitors in bareback riding, steer wrestling, roping, bronc riding, bull riding, and more will have you yee-hawing on the edge of your seat. Prior to the rodeo, your family can enjoy pony rides, live music, a mechanical bull, pony rides, vendors, and cultural exhibits.

This Is the Place Heritage Park Pioneer Day

What better place to celebrate Pioneer Day than a family park dedicated to commemorating the pioneers and early Utahns year round? In addition to all the regular fun the park provides, for the This Is the Place Heritage Park Pioneer Day celebrations there will be a candy cannon covering the street in old-fashioned taffy, panning for gold, pony and train rides, and games galore.

Deseret News Marathon

The Deseret News Marathon is the oldest road race in Utah (and the 4th oldest marathon west of the continental divide). The race follows the path the Utah pioneers traveled when they first entered the valley: from Big Mountain Summit down Emigration Canyon, finishing on the Days of ‘47 Parade route with thousands of cheering Utahns. Run the full, half, 10k, or 5k, or just cheer on the racers at the finish line!

Salt Lake City Drone Show

Drone shows are a fun and flashy alternative to more traditional fireworks shows, and they've been lighting up the Salt Lake skies for the last couple of years with Open Sky Drone Light Shows. Join in the fun with the official SLC Pioneer Day Drone Show at Liberty Park, where celebrations will be going on all day to watch the parade, cheer on the marathon participants, enjoy the Native American Celebration in the Park, and have a wonderful holiday, wrapping up with an incredible evening drone show. 

Pie and Beer Day

On the less traditional side of things, many people have decided to celebrate this unique Utah holiday sans the history and religious aspects via Pie and Beer Day. Instructions: surround yourself with friends, beer, whatever pie you like best (traditional fruit pies, meat pies, and pizza pies are often sought after), and have a really good time. Beer Bar is hosting the main event this year, touting it as the "World's Largest Pie and Beer Event." 25 breweries, 25 kitchens, and according to their official announcement, over 10,000 slices of pie will be at this event.