SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - 163 years ago the first Pioneer Day Parade was held. It started with the firing of a booming canon at sunrise and ended with a devotional and feast.
Since that day in 1849, the parade to honor the pioneers has turned into one of the biggest celebrations in the state. Steven L. Olsen, the senior curator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says "I don't of another regional celebration that is so wide spread, so deep seeded - so traditional and it's also practiced among Mormon congregations throughout the world."
As thousands of Mormon pioneers continued to make their way to Salt Lake - the first pioneer day was celebrated. Olsen says "All the different Mormon congregations gathered at the meeting house and then as a unit marched to temple square with their bishop leading them."
It wasn't about putting on a show for people on the streets. Olsen says it was celebration that actually honored the participants - and honored a birthday of sorts. "This wasn't just a community celebration it was a birthday celebration.The birth of a new homeland, the birth of a new people was very evident throughout pioneer day."
As Salt Lake City began to grow, so did the pioneer parade. While the first few years no one lined the streets. But as time marched on more people participated and more people watched the Pioneer Days Parade.
That was the name of the parade until 1931. Then it became the "Covered Wagon Parade" - a name that stuck until 1946. Then in 1947 - the centennial celebration of the pioneers arrival in Salt Lake - it became the Days of 47 Parade.
To be a pioneer in Utah you had to have arrived here between 1847 and 1868. About 70 thousand people qualified for that distinction. The last living pioneer was Hilda Erickson. She died in 1967.