July 24th passes like any other summer day in most of the United States. However, in Utah, it is a state holiday celebrating when Brigham Young and the first pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley on July 24th 1847. Yesterday while driving home from work I saw people setting up tents and pavilions along the street, getting ready to camp out in order to have front row seats for the parade today. I walked over to see what sort of parade the city of Salt Lake puts on. People lined the street. Individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit pushed carts full of balloons, hats, and umbrellas. Others pulled red flyer wagons packed with coolers advertising water and Gatorade for a dollar. The Salt Lake City police department entertained the crowds zooming by on their motorcycles and high fiving the front row. The Utah Military reserves marched pass followed by vehicles carrying soldiers and children with Make a Wish Foundation.
All good parades have floats and this one was no exception. In front of the floats that won awards, marched men and women dressed in pioneer outfits holding the sign proclaiming the honor accorded. A large float featured a blimp with a Mormon hand cart suspended underneath. Inside the carts several people waved to the crowd in period costumes and several people peeped out on top of the blimp. The blimp declared Flying to Zion. Behind the float people pulled several hand carts loaded with goods, carrying a sign proclaiming, Walking to Zion. Another float celebrated bringing the LDS faith to the Hawaiian Islands. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University also presented a float in the parade. Several marching bands represented the local high schools. Davis High school from Kaysville proudly marched wearing t-shirts proclaiming their upcoming appearance at the 2013 Rose Parade. In between the floats and bands, clowns on double decker bicycles and a man on a unicycle with a parrot on his shoulder awed the crowd.
Pairs of LDS missionaries wandered along the sidewalk talking to anyone interested in asking question. A woman handed out coupons for her beauty salon and an on duty police officer stood at the intersection telling people to keep the street open in case the fire truck needed to come through. Five minutes later the officer would have to clear the street again as new people crowded up, seeing a prime location for watching the parade. Women pushing strollers and a man with his head shaved except for two rows of gelled spiky hair walked towards the park where the parade ended.
The rest of the day will be commemorated with barbeque's, snow cones, rodeos, and fireworks at the end of the day. July 24th is celebrated as big or bigger than the 4th of July. It still seems strange to me even after living in Utah for six years that the 24th is such a big holiday. On the other hand, the 4th of July celebrates our countries independence. For the LDS the 24th represents their own independence. After being persecuted and kicked out of New York and later Indiana, the Salt Lake Valley represented for them a chance to build their own community and live their faith free from the strictures imposed in other locations. That is one of the reasons our forefathers left England, to practice their faith in the way they felt was right. Maybe it isn't so strange after all. People in Utah get to celebrate independence twice in a couple of weeks, it makes for a festive month of July.