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Lee Benson
Kathy Izatt

SALT LAKE CITY — Kathi Izatt loves the Days of ’47 Parade. Loves it so much she doesn’t appreciate anyone spreading falsehoods about it.

Especially if it’s the people putting it on.

For years, as a member of the all-volunteer Days of ’47 parade committee, she was told that Salt Lake City’s annual July 24th parade — the centerpiece for Pioneer Day activities — was the third largest in America. This fact was printed on brochures, promoted to the media and accepted generally as gospel truth.

But something about this wholesale spread of information bothered Izatt.

As a paralegal — she worked for the Salt Lake law firm of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless until she retired last fall — she couldn’t help but wonder, “Where was the documentation? Who was No. 1 and No. 2? What if it wasn’t true?”

“Lawyers are picky, picky, picky about having the right facts,” she says.

Then she read a story online that debunked the announced attendance numbers for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City. The article measured how many inches and feet it would require and reported it would be physically impossible to cram that many people along the parade route.

Uh-oh, Izatt thought. What if somebody blew the whistle on the Days of ’47 parade? So she started digging. She searched online about the size of well-known U.S. parades. She called some of the parade offices directly.

She learned a couple of things:

One, parades are hard to quantify by numbers — do you measure number of entries to determine the biggest, or spectators, or length of route or all three?

Two, on all of the above criteria, there are plenty of parades in America bigger than the Days of ’47.

She didn’t make a big deal out of it. She just made sure that every reference to “third-largest parade in America” was excised from all Days of ’47 brochures, pamphlets, press releases and promotional materials.

“Everybody believed it. Everybody wanted to be believe it. But it was a myth,” she says. “It’s great to self-promote, but it’s better that we make representations that have facts behind them.

“I feel better,” Izatt sighs. “I hope somebody else does.”

She does feel comfortable in declaring the Days of ’47 parade to be among the top 25 percent of the largest U.S. parades. One hundred and ten entries, thousands of participants and 250,000 live spectators — according to a Salt Lake Police Department estimate — in addition to a regional television audience qualifies as a big deal parade, no matter how you’re documenting it.

Izatt is typical of the people who sign on to help with the Days of ’47's various events and find out it’s a habit they can’t break.

She was minding her own business 20 years ago, working for the late Scott Loveless, one of the founding partners of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, when her boss shouted out to her as he walked into the conference room:

“You take shorthand, come and take minutes.”

The occasion was a meeting of the Days of ’47 committee, of which Loveless was a member and legal counsel.

To that point in her life, even though she comes from authentic Mormon pioneer roots, Izatt’s association with Days of ’47 activities was minimal to nonexistent.

But from that meeting on, she was hooked. She soon went from a minutes-taker to a member of the board and her assignment on the parade committee.

She joined a loyal club. Of the 1,000 or so people who volunteer every year to help with Days of ’47 activities, “I bet you it’s 80 percent” who are long-term returnees, she says.

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Last fall, when, at 66, she decided to retire from her legal career, she also decided she couldn’t retire from her Pioneer Day career.

“I left the paying job and kept the nonpaying one,” she says. “How intelligent is that?”

But someone has to check the facts and make sure everyone’s being honest.

“I now say we’re one of the oldest parades,” she says with a confident smile. “Our first parade was in 1849, two years after the pioneers arrived.”

With the exception of a few war years, a Days of ’47 parade has been held every year since.

And that’s a fact.