Thousands of Utahns celebrate the return of this 47-day tradition

Paola Sepulveda puts on an indigenous Pueblo penachos to parade in the 47 Days parade with the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021 (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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

She likes “just the beauty, the exquisite beauty of the thing, the story”.

“Even in the 1940s and 1950s I remember coming from Idaho and then California. We managed to come here every year,” Muse said.

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

Cheers erupted as the music exploded through the streets of downtown high school bands from across the state.

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

Muse said she had a pioneering heritage and her family had lost ancestors who made the journey to Salt Lake City “so it means a lot” to celebrate their history.

The Young family live in a building near Temple Square, and they can’t wait to look out the window or walk down to the sidewalk to see it every year, mom Allison Young said.

“I like to watch tanks, to watch people in costume,” said Meghan Young, 13.

At the start of the parade, her sister, Lauren Young, 4, pointed a glittering float into the street that was about to pass. She was too young to remember the last time she attended before the pandemic.

It’s a long-standing tradition for the family.

“When my kids were that age, we rented a hotel room in Little America” to see the parade, says Grandmother Diane Barlow. “It was so much fun. We did this for years.”

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

“And that’s 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 in the Temple Square meeting room in the morning, then walk into the parade.

They enjoy the “show” and “the people watching,” said Valon Lee.

“We come every year and we usually watch from that general area,” said Chad Mortensen.

He said they have attended the popular parade for 15 of the past 20 years.

“I’ve been in the parade twice and been here for probably 60 years. We haven’t missed a lot,” added her mother, Susan Mortensen.

“It’s just fun to see everyone together. See the tanks,” she said.

Miss Bluffdale salutes the city float at the Days of '47 parade in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. The float won the Ensign Award.
Miss Bluffdale salutes the city float at 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 love all of his heritage, all of the tanks, all of the work that goes into it,” said Chad Mortensen.

They said they were happy the parade was back after the pandemic brought last year’s parade to a halt for the first time in decades. The parade, one of the oldest in the country, was only canceled during WWI and WWII.

The Sandy Town float makes its way along the Days of '47 Parade route in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. It won the Mayor's Award, which is awarded to the town's most inspiring float. progress, growth and / or diversity.
Sandy’s Town float makes its way along the Days of ’47 Parade route in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 23, 2021. It won the Mayor’s Award, which is awarded to the town’s most inspiring float. progress, growth and / or diversity. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

The theme of the parade this year was “Pioneering Spirit: Alive Today”. Here are the award-winning tanks for Friday:

  • Days of ’47 competition prize: South Jordan Garden Park Stake
  • Thematic price: Cottonwood heights
  • Outstanding animation award: Draper Utah Meadows Stake
  • Price of the brand: Bluffdale City Royalty
  • Public Prize: Draper Utah Stake
  • Children’s Choice Award: Draper Utah Stake
  • President’s Award: First community bank
  • Queen’s Prize: KSL 5 TV
  • Mayor’s Award: Town of Sandy
  • Community Award: Midas Creek South Jordan Stake
  • Brigham Young Prize: Bountiful Utah East Stake
  • Governor’s Award: City in southern Jordan
  • Spirit of Faith Award: Salt Lake Granite Pile
  • Heritage Award: Salt Lake Utah Hunter Copperhill Stake
  • Utah Price: Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton
  • Utah Pioneer Daughters Award: West Jordan Jordan Oaks stake
  • Pioneer Award: West Jordan Westbrook Stake
  • Hilda Erickson Award: Midvale Utah Stake
  • Judges’ Choice Award: Days of ’47 Royalty Float

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