Crowds cheered, bright colored balloons filled the air, banners waved and the Brass By Five Quintet played patriotic standards as 280 weary members of the Tabernacle Choir battled their way through the standing-room-only concourse looking for the faces of loved ones.
Tears flowed as choir members greeted their spouses, children, grandparents and grandchildren."Three weeks is a long time to be away from your family," said one member.
"I honestly could not believe the reaction of the people and the media," said choir member LaMar Taylor. "It was truly the greatest tour ever."
"We want to welcome you home after a wonderful and most successful tour," said President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during surprise festivities for the choir.
The festivities honored the singers who gave 19 performances in the choir's longest trip ever.
"You've sung to some 40,000 people. You have received their applause," said President Hinckley. "You have been welcomed, and you have done tremendous good for the church, for Salt Lake City, for the state of Utah, for the nation in representing the United States for the 200th anniversary of the founding of Australia."
In a brief welcome to the choir, Gov. Norm Bangerter declared July 5 as Mormon Tabernacle Choir Day.
"I just want you to know what great people and what great travelers the choir members are," said Wendell M. Smoot, choir president.
Smoot said he didn't think it was possible for the choir to perform their 19th performance in Brisbane, Australia, that last night.
"But all of a sudden at dinner, 130 missionaries from the Australia Brisbane Mission filed into the dining room where we were eating and started to sing. You could just see the spirits of the choir soar," he said.
"The choir had never sung better, nor had they ever experienced a greater spiritual experience than that."
The choir left Salt Lake City three weeks ago for a 10-city concert tour through Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia.
Two of the Tabernacle Choir's weekly radio and television broadcasts, "Music and the Spoken Word," were televised via satellite from Australia.
In his closing remarks, President Hinckley said to the choir, "Our prayers have been with you, and to see you all here indicates that they have been answered. God be with you, and g'day mates."