Forty-eight hours before Salt Lake's Days of '47 Parade began, people started lining the two-mile parade route - pitching tents, laying out sleeping bags, and preparing to celebrate in style the coming of the pioneers to Utah.
The parade, a 140-year tradition, was "the best we've ever had," said parade chairman Jerry Dunyon. "I think it was one of the largest gatherings of people ever assembled in the state to watch an event or activity," he speculated. Some estimated that more than 200,000 watched the two-hour procession.There were more than 135 entries in this year's parade, with President Ezra Taft Benson and his wife, Sister Flora Benson, leading the lineup. Marching bands, dignitaries, royalty, clowns, horses, handcarts and antique cars were all part of the event, which carried the theme, "Our Pioneer Heritage - A Past to Remember." But the floats seemed to be real favorites.
Twenty-six of the floats were sponsored by stakes in the Salt Lake Valley, with 11 of those winning awards. The Taylorsville Utah North Central Stake, which depicted Latter-day Saints sailing on the ship Brooklyn from New York to California around South America's Cape Horn, was named the sweepstakes winner. The boat rocked and rolled in wave-like fashion as simulated dolphins, swimming and leaping through water, surrounded the vessel.
The Salt Lake Holladay Stake won the judging chairman's award. The bright red and gold float featured Utah's Asian heritage and included a four-man "dragon" that marched ahead of the entry, along with a group of ribbon dancers. Participants from the Holladay stake wore Asian costumes and black braids hanging down their backs to complete the ensemble.
Other floats depicted Utah pioneer themes such as mining; pioneer transportation; young women in the Church; the miracle of the gulls; settling the Salt Lake Valley; the area's first newspaper, the Deseret News; Indian chiefs during pioneer days; and pioneer women doctors.
The 80-plus degree weather was "absolutely perfect," exclaimed Dunyon, who also praised the hundreds of volunteers who worked to make the parade a success.