SALT LAKE CITY — Cloud cover kept the thousands of spectators lining the downtown streets cool on Monday for the Days of ′47 KSL 5 Parade.
More than 100 entrants made their way from South Temple and State Street in Salt Lake City to Liberty Park, commemorating the arrival of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stakes paid homage to Utah's pioneer heritage by constructing floats to coincide with this year's Days of ’47 theme: "Press Forward Pioneers."
"The floats were really nice," said Adam Meese who attended the parade for the first time after moving to Utah from California.
He said he was impressed with the parade — the largest in Utah and one of the oldest and largest in the United States — and that it was different from what he's used to in California with its lack of loud music and its content.
"The themes were a lot different," Meese said.
Meese was sitting near the start of the parade. He said he arrived around 8 a.m. but friends had come earlier at 5 a.m. to save seats. All along the parade route, tents, inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags could be found marking where families had set up camp to secure their spots overnight.
The Herriman Stake won the Theme Award for it's entry titled "Press Forward and Hang On." The float depicted a rodeo cowboy riding atop a bucking bronco with two giant red boots behind him. Jeff Colton said it took more than 100 volunteers meeting three days a week almost five months to construct the float.
"It's been fun," Colton said. "A lot of work but we've completely enjoyed it."
Colton said the float bases are ambulance chassis, provided by the LDS Church. After the parade, stakes take the floats apart and return the chassis to the church for future use. Fittingly, what takes months to build requires only hours to destroy.
"We can have this whole thing stripped down in probably a day," Colton said.
Bob Simons, of the Draper Corner Canyon Stake, said his stake's Legacy Award-winning float focused on the history of Draper. The float, titled "From Egg Basket to Fantastic" featured 11 eggs hang-gliding, biking and horseback riding above and around a model of the Draper Utah LDS Temple.
"Draper was known as the egg basket from Utah," Simons said.
Simons estimated that 1,500 volunteer hours went into the float, including the efforts of one woman who sculpted the eggs' individual faces.
Spectators gave a warm reception to all the parade entrants — the Make-a-Wish foundation drew a standing ovation and frantic waving and pointing followed the car that held LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. An unofficial cheering contest ensued when the Brigham Young University and University of Utah floats drove by.
The West Jordan Park Stake float, "Pressing Forward: Still Singing As We Go," won the People's Choice Award for its ornate depiction of an animal-filled Tabernacle Choir, including a lion conductor and hippo soloist.
Parade co-Chairman Jim Williams said between 18,000 and 20,000 votes were cast for the People's Choice Award. The Day's of ’47 committee held a Float Preview Party on Wednesday and Thursday at the South Towne Expo Center where individuals could see the entries and vote for their favorites.
Williams has been with the parade for 33 years and said a lot has changed.
"Floats are a lot better than they were back then," he said.
Following the parade, thousands of visitors spent the day at This Is the Place Heritage Park for the annual Pioneer Heritage Festival. This year saw record crowds with approximately 6,000 visitors, said the park's marketing director Tresha Kramer.
"(Monday was) probably the biggest day we've ever had for this celebration," Kramer said.
The festival was held on Saturday and Monday and gave families the opportunities to get a taste of pioneer life through demonstrations and activities. On Monday, children were having sack races, riding horses, feeding sheep and enjoying ice cream and shaved ice from the G.R. Huntsman Saloon. Festival staff also staged bank robberies, held pie-eating contests and at least twice a day fired off the candy cannon, spraying the park's Main Street with saltwater taffy.
"If people could see their kids in action here before they brought them, they'd be bringing them here all the time," Kramer said.
Kramer said with all the activities, families would have no trouble spending a whole day at the festival.
"It's interactive here; you're not walking through a museum," Kramer said. "It's unlimited fun."