If anyone were to think that the only pioneers that came to Utah were the Mormon settlers in 1847, one look at the Days of ‘47 Parade would prove them wrong. With 130 entries from LDS stakes, high schools, churches and other organizations, the parade showed how community members from all over the state of Utah were proud to share how pioneers inspire today’s generation on the morning of July 25.
This year, the refugee community in Salt Lake City joined the Days of ’47 Parade. “They wanted to be a part of Utah’s celebration,” Jodene Smith, parade co-chair, said. “They’re just elated to participate.”
With Salt Lake City Burundi Drummers performing atop a float, refugees who have made a new home in Utah walked the parade route holding flags from the countries they emigrated from.
Brigitte Rwakabuba, who is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, expressed her gratitude for being able to be a part of the Days of ’47 Parade. “[The early] pioneers struggled, and we struggled to come here,” she said. “We came to Utah and we have the same story, so that is why we are here. We made Utah our home.”
Participating in this Pioneer Day celebration has helped her and other refugees feel welcome in the community. “We are part of the history of Utah,” she said.
“It’s the first time for me to participate and the refugees to participate in Pioneer Day,” Nyandend Aleu, who emigrated from South Sudan 10 years ago, said. “It’s good to participate because this is home. Utah is home; it is our home.”
Sau Fangupo has directed the Liahona High School Alumni Band in the Days of ’47 Parade for the last 35 years. “The majority of our group are LDS,” he said. “Our great grandparents joined the church back on the island of Tonga. Those were the pioneers for us.”
The band, which is open to everyone, is a way to help youth become involved in the spirit of Pioneer Day. “It is a lot of work, but I think the youth are very in the work so it doesn’t become a burden,” Brother Fangupo said. “It’s something for them to look forward to every year in July.”
Maama Fihaki, pastor of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Utah, who has directed the church’s brass band in the Days of ’47 parade for 23 years, said, “I feel it’s a good thing to keep our youth busy in doing good things. That’s why I try to get the kids to be a part of [the band] and be good citizens, join the community and do good things for the community.”
Every year, the Days of ’47 Parade honors those who have served in the armed forces.
On July 25, 1966, a group of young men marched in the parade just before being sworn in as members of the United States Marine Corps, then boarding a bus to Camp Pembleton. Many members of the 1071 platoon, nicknamed the “honor platoon” for earning every military group honor possible, later served in Vietnam. Fifty years later, many of those that survived were honored in this Days of ’47 Parade, along with veterans from World War II and other wars.
Ellie Robinson of the Cottonwood Creek 3rd Ward, Cottonwood Creek Utah Stake, appeared in the parade as Miss Sandy. While participating in the scholarship pageant, she said she had to know what she stood for.
“It’s been really good for me to know who I am and really put a stand on my standards.”
She feels that the early pioneers provided a wonderful example of doing just that. “I think the pioneers knew who they were. They stood for something that was amazing. They stood for their religion. They knew what they wanted, they knew they were going to get here, and they had faith and determination.”