‘Days of ’47 Dixie’ celebrates Mormon pioneer heritage

WASHINGTON CITY – Helpings of fresh pancakes served with eggs and sausage were devoured to the music of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” delivered by a community band Saturday morning as Washington City kicked of its Pioneer Day celebration.

Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson serving up pancakes at the Lions Club breakfast for Pioneer Day at Veterans Park, Washington City, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson serving up pancakes at the Lions Club breakfast for Pioneer Day at Veterans Park, Washington City, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The Lions Club served up breakfast while the Washington City Community Band played a mix of patriotic tunes and gospel hymns at Veterans Park prior to the Days of ’47 Dixie Parade at 9 a.m.

“We’re celebrating the ‘Days of ’47’ in the state of Utah,” Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said.

The Days of ’47 – or more specifically the Days of ’47 Dixie for this part of the state – derives its name from the year 1847 when Mormon pioneers first entered the Great Salt Lake Valley on July 24 of that year.

“The 24th of July is a celebration really for the state of Utah where the Mormons left Nauvoo, Illinois, in a big trek to find a place, to get away from everybody basically,” Neilson said.

Mormons, a popular nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left their city of Nauvoo in Illinois following the death of church president Joseph Smith at the hands of a mob.

The Mormons, led by Smith’s successor Brigham Young, moved West in order to get away from mounting persecution – something which had dogged the church since its organization in 1830.

The territory that would become Utah was still a part of Mexico when the first Mormons arrived in 1847.

Pioneer Day activities at Veterans Park, Washington City, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Pioneer Day activities at Veterans Park, Washington City, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“I think it’s a really special,” said Sister Megan Hooson, an LDS missionary from York, England. Before coming to Utah for an LDS mission, Hooson was not familiar with the pioneer stories from the church’s history.

“It’s really cool to see how the pioneers were able to come over here – like people from my county – who were able to come and help with the growth of the church,” Hooson said. “It’s really neat to learn about it.”

The celebration of Pioneer Day goes beyond the initial arrival and settlement in the Great Salt Lake Valley, the mayor said. It also extends to the early history of Washington City.

“Washington City was the first community established (in the area) in 1857,” Neilson said. “And every year they’ve done a celebration.”

At the 2016 Days of '47 Pioneer Day Parade in Washington City, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
At the 2016 Days of ’47 Pioneer Day Parade in Washington City, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Washington City was originally colonized by 40 families sent by Brigham Young to grow cotton in an effort to build self-sufficiency, Neilson said. Cotton production lasted for about 20 years, then was replaced with general agriculture.

These days tourism is a big driver for the area, the mayor said.

The Days of ’47 Dixie parade started shortly after 9 a.m. and hundreds of people lined the parade route down Telegraph Street while little children clamored about with glee as candy was thrown their way from passing floats.

“I can’t live without candy,” one little girl shouted, making a dentist somewhere very happy.

Over the span of about 40 minutes various LDS and pioneer-themed floats floats and vehicles passed by, as did others representing area veterans and local rock-crawling enthusiasts, area businesses and other groups.

Following the parade the festivities continued in Veterans Park for a time.

The day’s events are set to conclude with a party at the Washington City Community Center from 6-10 p.m. featuring live entertainment, a pool party, dancing and other activities.

A fireworks show is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

“You know, I really enjoy it. I really enjoy the tradition that we try and have,” Neilson said.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • .... July 23, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Elder Bob and Bishop Real Life have invited me two go and spend the day with them and their beloved Mormon brethren. .that was so sweet of them

    • Real Life July 24, 2016 at 9:11 am

      The dope has done made you stupid son.

  • .... July 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Bless you Bishop RealLowlife for your love and kindness you represent your Mormon brethren quite well

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