In honor of 19th century pioneers who crossed and settled the untamed West in the name of religion, members in wards and stakes across the United States this week re-lived segments of pioneer life.
As part of the commemoration, members donned rawhide and boots, bandanas and bonnets to imitate the style of their spiritual ancestors of more than a century earlier. They pushed handcarts, raced in old-fashioned contests, rattled around in horse-drawn wagons, and, as always, held sumptuous picnics. Most celebrations outside Utah were held Saturday, July 22.In the Rolling Valley Ward, Annandale Virginia Stake, a day of pioneer events began early with a 10K run.
When the runners returned to the meetinghouse, they spent the remainder of the day enjoying old-fashioned activities that included a pie-eating contest, churning butter in a quart jar, a tug of war, and a scrambling "find-your-own-shoes" contest.
Afterward, more than 200 ward members enjoyed a picnic of fried chicken in the cultural hall, where they found relief from the 90-degree heat outdoors. Later, logs and flickering lights portrayed a camp fire in the middle of the floor, creating an atmosphere for stories and folk songs that completed the day's activities.
In the Brentwood Ward of the Franklin Tennessee Stake, ward members gathered early at the home of Bishop Tom Allen for a pancake breakfast with all the trimmings, prepared by him and his family. More than 90 people of all ages enjoyed the breakfast, and then exchanged pioneer stories, played games andsang songs, said Elder Noel Bowcutt, public communications missionary of the Tennessee Nashville Mission.
Church members in Wilmington, N.C., used their Pioneer Day activities to help commemorate the 250th anniversary of Wilmington, N.C. Their "Pioneer Birthday Celebration," was listed in the city's year-long festivities calendar, said Carolynn Skipper, stake public communications director.
In addition to holding pioneer games and displaying pioneer relics including a handcart, a colonial parlor in all its elegance was recreated in the meetinghouse. Items from the Church's early days in the area, including the original sacrament dishes, were also shown visitors.
"Hundreds of people visited the meetinghouse," said Sister Skipper. "Various local officials, including Wilmington Mayor Don Betz, attended. Newspapers and television covered the celebration, the first time a Church event has received that kind of coverage."
Pioneer Day in the Longview Texas Stake, under the direction of Pres. John F. Woodman, took on a distinctly western flavor as pioneer activities, such as carding, spinning wool and tossing horse shoes, were enjoyed by members.
One of the more arduous events to honor the pioneers was held by the Cheyenne (Wyo.) 7th Ward, which re-enacted a four-day handcart march July 19-22 over 48 miles of the original pioneer trail.
Some 35 members trekked from Pine Bluffs, Neb., to Cheyenne, pushing three handcarts.
"I feel it is important that our children feel a kinship with their pioneer heritage," said Bishop Paul Gage. "It is important for us to know how much they sacrificed, and to feel a part of what they went through."
The group received police escorts as they passed through cities. On the fourth day, when they arrived at a bluff overlooking Cheyenne, ward member Jim Ross told about Brigham Young's first sighting of Salt Lake Valley, and after a hymn, "Come, Come, Ye Saints," he commented, "This is our place."
In California, members throughout the state held picnics and pioneer activities during the week of July 24. Handcarts were used in a race by members in the Lawndale and Torrance North stakes on July 22. They also played pioneer games, held contests and ate dinners.
The handcart race became international as members of Japanese, Hispanic, and Polynesian wards competed. Handcarts were built by the elders quorums of each ward. The handcarts were loaded with 450 pounds of food storage. "Each team had to load the cart, make the race, and then unload the cart," said Marco Holbrook, cultural activities specialist for the Torrance California North Stake. Of nine entries, the team from the South Bay Singles Ward won the race, she said.
The Fort Collins Colorado Stake celebrated with a day of activities, including a parade and bread-making contest.