Anyone who has ever camped out to get a good place at the Days of '47 Parade or had trouble finding a spot knows a basic truth: Utahns love parades. And in fact, there have been parades here for almost as long as there have been Utahns to hold them.
Utah was still inhabited only by Native Americans when the word "parade" was coined in France 500 years ago. But it took years - centuries - for the term, meaning "a celebration or showing off," to gain popularity, so when the pioneers first came to Utah, they were still using the now relatively archaic word "procession" to describe their parades.The first was held in Utah on July 24, 1849, only two years after the settlers arrived. The occasion was billed as "the First Grand Celebration." The parade itself was called "A Grand Procession," but it was a parade just the same.
It started with a man on horseback in military uniform. He was followed by a brass band. Other significant participants included 24 young men dressed completely in white, with white scarves around their necks. These young men carried copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in their right hands and sheathed swords in their left hands. One also carried a banner that read "The Zion of the Lord."
Twenty-four young women also participated. They too were dressed in white, with white scarves flowing from their right shoulders and wreaths of white roses on their heads. Each young woman carried a Bible and Book of Mormon. One held a banner that read, "Hail to our Chieftain." LDS general authorities and church President Brigham Young also participated in this parade.
One of Utah's next big parades celebrated the United States' Centennial on July 4, 1876. By then there were many Utah communities, and a number held "processions."
Parowan had an 8:30 a.m. parade. It featured mounted guards both front and rear. It also had 13 young women "in a chariot drawn by four decorated chargers," according to a magazine of the time. Each woman had a banner representing one of the 13 original colonies.
Ogden's procession began at 10 a.m. It included a band and tableaux of Columbus, the Pilgrims and three young women, each dressed in a color of the flag and mounted on a horse. The parade also had a "Goddess of Liberty" tableau closely resembling a modern float.
The Provo processional included cavalry, a band, guards and people with signs representing the Declaration of Independence and the 13 colonies. Moroni's procession marched through the principal street, with a band and banners. Newspapers and magazines of the era made no mention of a parade or celebration in Salt Lake City.
Members of the LDS Church celebrated the 33rd anniversary of their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley with the state's biggest-yet parade. This procession (they still weren't called parades) started at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 24, 1880. It was over 3 miles long and began at First South, eventually ending at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
The procession was headed by Charles M. Evans, bugler for the original pioneers, and leading the parade were five wagonloads of 1847 pioneers. On the side of the first wagon was a portrait of Brigham Young (who had died a few years earlier) with the inscription, "Gone before us," below it on one side and, "Gone but not forgotten," on the other side. Above flew a banner with the names of all the original pioneers and a picture of Joseph Smith blowing a trumpet. One wagon also carried a U.S. flag.
The parade had a martial band, the survivors of Zion's Camp and representatives of all the LDS auxiliaries. Members of the Mormon Battalion marched in their original uniforms, described as tattered.
One interesting parade entry was a group of wagons carrying representatives of all of the countries where the LDS Church had obtained converts. Each was dressed in his or her native costume. Another decorated wagon featured a tableau of women, in special robes and with pertinent props, representing religion, geography, science, art and history. This was as elaborate for its time as the most intricate float is today.
Another wagon contained honey and bees, and one sponsored by Deseret Telegraph boasted miniature poles and two telephones. Even four original Pony Express riders participated, carrying a banner that read "1860-1861, from Missouri to San Francisco in just 7 days and 7 hours."
When Utah became a state, an inaugural parade was held Jan. 4, 1896. Few details are now available _ but we know that by then the word "parade" was in use instead of "procession."
The first "Grand National Celebration of the State of Utah" was held July 2, 3 and 4, 1896. A parade was held each of the days. There was a floral parade and a parade called "The Grand Triumphant Parade of Floats." Floats included one labeled "Utah 1847 and Utah 1896," to illustrate the progress that had been made and how the new state was a very modern place, not the isolated desert of 50 years previous. There were also patriotic floats, such as Washington crossing the Delaware and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Utah's state flower, the sego lily, was featured on one float.
Utah's parades continue to chart the progress of the 20th century. Automobiles replaced wagons, and politicians as often as not replaced church authorities. Horses play a less prominent part in most parades, and drill teams and high school bands have succeeded the brass bands made up of adults. In the decades before World War I, beauty queens became a prominent part of some parades.
Over decades, the parade evolved into what it is today. But no matter how parades have changed, they've never lost their popularity _ because Utahns really do love a parade.