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Geoffrey McAllister

When clowns, pooper-scoopers and drum majors take over the streets of downtown Salt Lake City, it must be time for the Days of '47 Parade on Pioneer Day.

Spectators like Tonia Howard, Matt Lloyd and Chris Ripplinger camped out along the route overnight.

Howard arrived with her family at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to secure a good parade-watching spot. However, she noted, the other side of the street was already packed by the time they arrived.

Lloyd and Ripplinger didn't stake out their spot till 1 a.m. Thursday, but they still found room to set up two LoveSacs and a couch.

"We're doing this every year from now on," Ripplinger said. "It's just a novelty."

Scott Johnson and about 20 friends arrived at about 10 p.m. Wednesday. They brought mattresses, tarps and a shelter to block the sun during the day. Johnson said he stayed up all night playing cards and having a good time.

"We only slept about an hour," he said.

This year's parade featured 110 floats from communities and businesses across the valley.

School rivalries became apparent as the Brigham Young University float was met with cheers and chants or boos and rants, depending on the loyalties. The University of Utah float was met with more resounding enthusiasm in its hometown.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Frances, waved to the crowds from the back of a sporty convertible.

Two of the last living sons of Utah pioneers, Frank Swallow and Ken Blair, rode on the back of a covered wagon sponsored by the Sons of Utah Pioneers.

The float by the Farmington Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took top honors in the parade. The float featured two giant Styrofoam seagulls barbecuing crickets and was both the top vote-getting float and the judge's choice.

Early Thursday, while much of the community was sleeping in, hundreds of early birds welcomed Pioneer Day in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for the annual Days of '47 Sunrise Service.

The 7 a.m. event included a pioneer-themed message, plenty of music and a posting of the colors by the Mormon Battalion.

Elder Earl C. Tingey, a member of the LDS Church's Presidency of the Seventy, offered the annual Sunrise Service address. He said the characteristics that defined the Mormon Pioneers in 1847 can help people today "pioneer into the future."

Listing those traits, Elder Tingey said the pioneers believed in their duty to gather and establish Zion. They were obedient to their prophets. They were willing to sacrifice for their beliefs, despite physical hardships and the death of loved ones. They worked hard to rear "a righteous posterity," and they had faith and vision.

No longer are church members worldwide called to gather in the Salt Lake Valley. Instead, he said, they come together in some 2,700 stakes across the globe.

"But the same work of pioneering continues as we move the church forward under the leadership of inspired prophets and apostles (who) shared the message of the Restoration and the witness that Jesus is the Christ, and he has established his church in these latter days," he said.

Elder Tingey added that the trust his own pioneer ancestors placed in their pioneer prophet, Brigham Young, has inspired him to do the same.

"I have associated with the senior brethren in the church for many decades and can testify they are led by revelation," he said. "If we have faith to follow their counsel, we will be blessed, and the Lord will lead us in the proper paths and to the truths we should be pursuing."

While the Mormon pioneers surely endured harsh physical trials, Elder Tingey said people today must overcome their own challenges: attacks on the family, gender confusion, disease, pornography, the adverse influence of the media and uncertain economic and political conditions.

"(These) challenges may be as difficult to us today as were the challenges the pioneers had in yesteryear," he said.

The pioneers counted their children as their highest priority. Today's parents, he added, should follow suit.

The mission of the gospel embraced by the Mormon pioneers remains the same today, concluded Elder Tingey. "We have a divine destiny to establish the church throughout the world and to rear a righteous posterity. The Lord will help us to accomplish these purposes."

Music at the event was provided by a Sunrise Service choir and brass ensemble conducted by Sterling Poulson and Michael Huff.


Contributing: Aaron Falk

E-mail: cmadsen@desnews.com; jswensen@desnews.com