CEDAR CITY — In order to minimize the public health risks related to the coronavirus, officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have announced there will be no formal Pioneer Day celebrations in Cedar City this year. Other municipalities in Southern Utah well-known for their celebrations have announced various iterations of previous years’ traditional activities.
The July 24 state holiday, which celebrates the arrival of the first groups of Mormon pioneer emigrants to Utah in 1847, is typically observed throughout Utah with community festivals, parades, rodeos and other events. However, due to concerns regarding the spread of coronavirus in large groups, several major events throughout the state have already been canceled for 2020, including Salt Lake City’s Days of ’47, Bountiful’s Handcart Days, the Ogden Pioneer Days Celebration and Rodeo, The Freedom Festival in Provo and the Deseret News Marathon, among others.
Sage Platt, who serves as a communication director for the church’s Cedar North Stake of the LDS church along with her husband, Steve, told Cedar City News that local church leaders are considering the change a “postponement” rather than a cancellation, since they fully plan to stage the event in 2021.
“We have a committee and had done a lot of work planning but will now continue with what we all worked on and put it toward next year,” Sage Platt said, adding that the chosen theme of “Faith, Family, and Friendships” will carry over to next year’s event.
Eric Schmutz, a Utah Area Seventy for the LDS church, said in a news release that the decision was made with regard to limiting large gatherings for safety, but he also voiced his hope for the future. In the prepared statement, Schmutz said the following:
A decision was made a few weeks ago by local leaders to postpone this year’s Pioneer Day Parade in Cedar City. Although there will not be a parade to honor past, present, and future pioneers who are such a meaningful part of our local history, we can still honor their legacy by carrying on traditions of hard work, sacrifice and common respect for our neighbors. We look forward with anticipation to next year when we can resume gathering together and celebrating Pioneer Day in a more traditional way.
Cedar City North Stake President Scott Albrecht, who was responsible for coordinating Cedar City’s 24th of July celebrations, echoed that sentiment in the news release.
“While it is difficult this year to not commemorate publicly many of the holidays, traditions, and celebrations we are accustomed to, there is still a great deal we can do individually and as families to honor these occasions,” he said.
Albrecht suggested that people “take a moment individually and as families this pioneer season” to study the stories of the pioneers and “do our best to emulate the qualities of those gone before, that made both them and this great land what it is today.”
Albrecht told Cedar City News that the planning for the Pioneer Day event has also involved representatives of other churches who are part of a community interfaith alliance.
“We certainly wanted to promote the ‘faith, family, and friends’ theme to all our family and friends of all faiths,” he said, calling the holiday a celebration of “the freedoms we now have, such as freedom of religion, which is what our pioneer forebears sought by settling Utah and Cedar City.”
Roice Nelson, president of the local chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, said that although the traditional pioneer-themed speeches at the Rock Church won’t be happening this year, people should still make it a point to research and discuss their family heritage during the upcoming holiday.
“We encourage each of you to read stories about your pioneer ancestors with your families,” Nelson said. “If you are new to Cedar City, talk to a neighbor whose family is from Cedar, and they will share their ancestor stories with you. Learn and remember and build on our wonderful heritage.”
While Pioneer Day events in Cedar City have been canceled, they will still be taking place in Panguitch, according to the city’s website and confirmed by City Manager Lori Talbot. After a breakfast at Zions Bank from 7-9:30 a.m., the parade will start at 10 a.m. along Main and Center streets. That will be followed by various activities scheduled throughout the day, including a rodeo at the Triple C Arena starting at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Washington County, where Washington City typically hosts the main Pioneer Day celebration for the county, the city’s traditional parade and daytime events in Veterans Square have been canceled. However, Mayor Kenny Neilson told Cedar City News the July 24 fireworks show is still scheduled to take place at dusk at the softball fields at 450 Community Center Drive.
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