Monday, July 21, 2014

Pioneer Day

You guys. I know you are all very excited and you've hardly been able to sleep lately. You've made paper chains counting down the days. You've spent all of your time in the last few months trying to pick out your outfits for the big day. And the amount of thought you've put into your hair! You've done all of this for good reason.

Because PIONEER DAY!!!!!!!!!!

And you know I don't italicize, underline, bold, and capitalize simultaneously unless it's REALLY important.

Pioneer Day is the greatest holiday in the history of all holidays in the history of mankind in the history of the world, matched possibly only by Twice Up the Barrel Once Down the Side Day, which happens later this summer, of course.

For the less fortunate who don't have the opportunity to experience the glory of July 24th Pioneer Day, I'll give you a little background.


Pioneer Day is a Utah state holiday and it celebrates the time in 1847 when the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley through Emigration Canyon just down the street from where I live. And every year Salt Lake City SHUTS THE HELL DOWN to celebrate this. I'm truly not kidding. Half of the streets downtown are closed off to cars. Because there are legitimately COVERED. FREAKING. WAGONS. And HANDCARTS. Wandering around the streets of Salt Lake City.

Because PIONEER DAY.

All of the kids in Utah learn the official state song in school. It's called "UTAH! THIS IS THE PLACE!" And seriously. It is the most triumphant song of all time. The title of it HAS to be in all caps so you can really understand it. It's about how Brigham Young brought the pioneers to Salt Lake. It has like 97 verses and a good portion of it could probably prompt a nice separation-of-church-and-state lawsuit.

But so far, every child in the state of Utah has learned this thing for the last 20 years, including dramatic hand actions. It can be heard on the streets of Salt Lake City throughout Pioneer Day. And if you ever catch me in a good mood (like on July 24th), I will perform it for you IN ITS ENTIRETY.

Until then, please let this video of the song's performance and the excessive use of jazz hands keep you company.

All of the state offices and local companies close on the 24th. Some of my friends who work for national companies have to take vacation time to get out of the office on that day. Usually when they talk about this, they speak of it as though it is the most outrageous and offensive thing that could happen.

"Can you believe that my office isn't closed on PIONEER DAY?! THEY MIGHT AS WELL MAKE US WORK ON CHRISTMAS!!!"

There's a giant parade on the morning of the holiday. People start sitting out on the streets to secure a good spot for this parade 48 hours in advance. I'm not kidding. The parade goes right by my place. I already saw signs being put up on July 19th, asking people to please be courteous in staking out their spots. FOR THE PARADE THAT HAPPENS FIVE DAYS LATER.

And I know some of you are slightly skeptical and are wondering how Pioneer Day could possibly be better than Christmas. Let me just point out, oh ye naysayers, that Santa inexplicably makes an appearance in the Pioneer Day parade EVERY year. Does Christmas have Santa AND handcarts AND doilies? What? Just Santa?

PIONEER DAY WINS.

There's also a giant marathon and 10k that run along the pioneer route. Of course I signed up for the marathon. Because THE PIONEERS. Also, since it runs along side the parade route this means that there are thousands of people there to cheer for me and you KNOW I'm not going to pass up the opportunity for that kind of attention!

But mostly I'm doing it because the pioneers. Of course.

I think the thing I love the most about Pioneer Day is that it's this odd little thing that we have all to ourselves in Utah. And in Salt Lake City, everyone loves Pioneer Day. It doesn't matter if you have pioneer ancestors or if you've never heard of the Mormons in your life. Pioneer Day is a celebration of the fact that this city we all love exists.

And for some people, that celebration comes in the form of drinking beer under the grand firework displays that light up the evening sky ("Pionbeer Day"). For others, it's pulling handcarts and imagining the sacrifices the pioneers selflessly made to settle our city and tame the desert into the beautiful place it is now. And for some, it's drinking beer while cheering on the handcart pullers. But for everyone, it's about being really super happy that we get to live here in this incredible little place.

And I'm excited. Because, damn it. I love Salt Lake City. And the freaking pioneers.

~It Just Gets Stranger

59 comments:

  1. You think Salt Lake shuts down? You have never experienced Pioneer day until you have gone to a small town celebration! Altamont (tiny place about halfway between Duchesne and Vernal) for example; on the Saturday after Pioneer day, 6 AM fun run, then they raise a flag on a huge crane, with people lined up down main street to watch. Then there is the parade, where everyone for 50 miles who has something interesting, shows off and throws salt water taffy at the audience.

    Then there is a break, which usually consists of the teenagers going and picking up a date for the rest of the festivities, and then there is the buckaroo rodeo. This might just be the best thing ever. They stick a bunch of farm animals in a pen with children, and let loose. If the kid catches something, they take it home. And then the whole place gets together at the park for a barbeque, and then there is a giant talent show. Then my uncle goes crazy with the fire works in the field behind the church. And then (yeah, more!) They have a movie in the park! Seriously, Saturday after pioneer day, you need to drive out there and check it out!

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  2. Um...I am 34 and have live in Utah, no more than 10 miles in any direction from Salt Lake City, for 32 of those years and have never heard of that song much less been taught it and all the actions. Neither has my husband who also grew up in Utah. Nor any of our 4 children who are all elementary age.

    Why did you have to point out I've been deprived? Just...why?!?!? I wonder how many more of us are out there that just learned our childhoods were, in fact, NOT happy? I was content, even pleased, with my growing up years until YOU, so rudely I might add, informed me on what I had missed out on. That was really uncaring coming from someone with hair as amazing as yours. I expected more from you.

    Oh, the glorious hand movements I could have had memories of!

    Thanks a lot, Eli, just thanks a-freakin' lot.

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    1. pioneer police forceJuly 22, 2014 at 8:11 AM

      Already done. Expect officials to be at your house with hymnals and Jew's harps by 11am.

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    2. I'm 28 and born and raised in Utah and have never heard that song, either. Is it possible that Eli made it up and taught it to some school kids to make the rest of us feel left out?

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    3. I'm glad the pioneer police force is getting involved here, despite its busy schedule. Because HOW DID AN ENTIRE UTAH FAMILY ESCAPE THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM WITHOUT LEARNING THIS SONG?!?!

      Emilie, we are all here for you. Maybe the rest of us Utahans can teach you the Jazz hands. "IT WAS BRIGHAM YOUNG WHO LED THE PIONEERS ACROSS THE PLAINS!!!"

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    4. My credibility is being attacked! Can I get some backup? I know I'm not the only kid who marched around the school singing this. YOU GUYS. IT'S THE OFFICIAL STATE SONG! (Not to be confused with the official state hymn, "Utah, We Love Thee." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah,_This_Is_the_Place

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    5. I'm 26, and I definitely know this song! Sometimes if someone says the word "Utah" with too much excitement or the right inflection, it reminds me of this song, and I might just start singing it. However, I don't know that I know every verse (have they added new ones!?), and I definitely don't think I had those awesome hand movements when I sang along in 4th grade. I'm pretty jealous. Also, that hand movement for heaven . . . what is that?

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    6. Sorry Eli, I am with Emilie on this one. I am 35, born and raised in Salt Lake and I have never heard this song. With or without the jazz hands.

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    7. I wouldn't put it past Eli to teach an entire forth grade class a song with jazz hands just to mess with all of his Strangers.

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    8. I think it's an age thing. It was written in 1996. So if you were already out of elementary school by then it was much less likely that you would have ever learned it. It still surprises me though that people who have lived in Utah for a long time haven't heard it. We need to do a better job of playing this song everywhere we go during the month of July.

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    9. I think my favorite part of that song is: "New technologies here, growing FASTER each year! This is the PLACE!" It gives me the giggles every time my kids sing it.

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    10. I taught it to all my 4th grade students the past 8 years! I love that song and I'm not even originally from Utah'

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    11. They wrote it for the centennial back in 1996 along with other amazing songs, and all elementary school kids learned it for the best assembly ever. (We listened to the tapes all the time and have some pretty awesome family video footage of us rocking out to it.) Sometime not that long ago they decided to change the state song from "Utah, We Love Thee" to "THIS IS THE PLACE" because "Thee" is a boring word.

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    12. I learned it too, Jazz hands and everything...

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    13. I totally missed out on this. I had no idea what our state song was even called...

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    14. 31 and lived in Utah all my school years and never learned this song. I didn't even know we had a State Song....

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    15. I married a native Utahn (who turned 29 this year) and SHE introduced me to this song, which she learned with hand gestures and everything in her childhood. In spite of her best efforts I've only managed to learn bits and pieces of it. "U-TAH, with it's mumble and something, U-TAH, with it's other great things..."
      Kind of like singing More Holiness Give Me without the hymnal. "More holiness giiiiiiiive meeeee.... more...... something else... more, something and something.... more, soooomething elllllsssse..."
      I don't remember all the verses to my childhood state song, Washington, my home, but I still remember about verdant forests green caressed by silvery stream!

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  3. In Wisconsin the start of Hunting Season is our national holiday. We don't have a song or Santa.

    (p.s. I am now reading ALL of your posts with your voice from The Lost Journal Series in my head)

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  4. My husband is from Brigham City and, before he married me, had NEVER celebrated Pioneer Day! I couldn't believe it! The following paragraph was written about me, the friend who works for a national company (booo):
    Some of my friends who work for national companies have to take vacation time to get out of the office on that day. Usually when they talk about this, they speak of it as though it is the most outrageous and offensive thing that could happen.

    Also, in my 4th grade program we did not learn hand movements to that song, but when I was a sophomore in college my roommates and I would sing it at the top of our lungs. Of course, only the parts that we remembered, which, for them, consisted of "UTAH!!!!!!!" and "UTAH!!!!!!!" I would then proceed to sing the rest at voice-breaking volumes. "WITH IT'S MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS...WHAT A GREAT LEGACY!!!!!!"

    I think singing this song with my roommates is what got us married, because the one roommate in our apt that was from Colorado and didn't know the song is the only one that's not married anymore.
    Maybe you should start singing it at the top of your lungs and your soulmate will be drawn to you like that little boy in Australia that sings his 'mom' to him...Worth a shot, I'd say.

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  5. Blessed be the day that a parade route blocks the only enterence onto the street that I work on and I don't have to go into the office!

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    1. Here! Here! One can only dream!!! We just had Westerner Days here in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada and those people who are lucky enough to work downtown generally get the morning off to watch the parade. Sadly, since we are no where near downtown and my boss frowns upon all things fun and moral boosting, we had to work...perhaps a job change is in order.
      ~T

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    2. Oh this makes me sad for you! I work for a credit union and wouldn't normally get Pioneer Day off but my boss is kind to her employees. I may or may not rub it in the faces of friends that work at other credit unions that have to go into work that day...

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  6. Just think of all the peoplr who will see how good your hair looks!! The only thing that would be better is if paul simon showed up! :)

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  7. Ummm, Pie n' beer day. YOU FORGOT THE PIE!!!!! That's the most important part because what is more Utahan than Pioneers and Pie? It's the most important part because I don't drink, so while my friends enjoy their beers, I'll be fork in hand near the pie.

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    1. Amanda! How did I not know about the pie part!?!? I guess I've never seen it written. I've only ever heard it spoken so I thought people were just saying "pion" instead of "pie n'." What a huge difference dropping the O makes!!!

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  8. And fireworks, BECAUSE PIONEERS HAD FIREWORKS AND THAT'S WHY WE LIGHT THEM OFF, OK?

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    1. In the town in which I grew up, July 4th fireworks were just a preview for the glory that would befall us on Pioneer Day 20 days later.

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  9. My non-member (a.k.a. heathen!) friends always call it pie 'n beer day. Because pie.

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    1. Crap just saw Amanda's comment. I'm late to the party!

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  10. I learned different hand motions. (WHAT?? There is NO WAY this is not state regulated as part of the curriculum. Common Core? Anyone?) The hand motions we learned were sign language (or, what I assume to be a very loose interpretation of it) and I'll be damned if I don't remember EVERY SINGLE ONE. We should get together and compare notes, because that's what the pioneers would have us do.

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  11. Eli, I'll help you out ... I'm an itinerant teacher in the Davis School District. That means I teach at not one, but multiple (the last several years anywhere from 9-12), schools every year. And the fourth graders at every. single. school. can be found singing that song for weeks on end in the second half of the school year. I'm not from Utah so I didn't learn it as a kid, but I sure know all 97 verses now. I *love* listening to them practice all their songs for the UTAH! program. But none of them are quite as enthusiastic as this one.

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    1. Thank you Lacey! Can I get a sworn affidavit? I need to send it to Emilie above.

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    2. That maybe the only thing to repair our now strained relationship.

      Also, chocolate would help.

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  12. It pains me to be missing the party this year. People out here in heathen California just don't understand the immensity and importance of this holiday!

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    1. I live out here in Hollyweird and hope to be working. Y'all can sing your 97 verses and do the hand gestures and eat pie and drink beer and blow your faces off with the fireworks and whatever else. Oh, yeah. And Santa. I'll only miss the pie.

      I hope I'm on set, either acting like a nun in the background, or possibly a non-descript pedestrian walking back and forth along the sidewalk. Or else I hope I'm on set, Script Supervising, or adjusting costumes, or being someone's Assistant. Maybe whatever news channel covers all of your festivities will catch Eli's fabulous hair as he runs by the cameras, and if some random television near Craft Services just happens to have that random news channel on, and I just happen to be getting myself a handful of almonds and a banana in that moment, I can say, "Hey! I don't even KNOW that guy, but I bet he idolizes Paul Simon! Because PIONEER DAY! And look at his HAIR!" and then everyone around will know to keepawayfromthecrazylady...

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  13. I love the end of this post. It really is a day that everyone kind of comes together and laughs about our shared connection.

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  14. Pioneer Day > Independence day because DEMOLITION DERBY!!

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  15. Pioneer Day is great, but when is Twice Up The Barrel And Once Down The Side Day?!?!?!? And what is my food assignment?

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    1. I also am very excited about this! I'll bring chocolate chip bundt cake.

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  16. Ummm, I'm from Utah, too, and never learned the song! How about, "It happened on the 10th of May in 1869"? My kids learned that one, as did my husband!

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    1. "The Union Pacific! And the Central Pacific!" Half of the class made up each train and we walked toward one another on stage until the front two kids reached the middle and enthusiastically shook hands. Then we turned and finished the song facing the audience, hands waving in the air. There were tears.

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    2. What! ?! ? Yet another song I missed out on learning. How could I have ever thought I was happy....

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    3. Ah man! I learned a different one!
      "Iron wheels were rollin' down the new built track [train motions back and forth with arms]. Each train kept on goin', no thought of turnin' back. A lot of tired workers [swipe the back of your hand across your forehead] layin' rails along the lines. They met at Promontory Point in [wiping hands on each other while making clapping noises] Eighteen Sixty-Nine"
      I love that song!
      I'm sure you're all curious now and want the lyrics to all the 4th grade program songs for Davis County, so here you go:
      Song Booklet for the 4th Grade Program

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  17. I loved Pioneer Day when I lived in Utah. An extra holiday in the middle of the summer?? Heck yes, I'll take it!

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  18. Childhood misspent in SLC (I served my time, thankyouverymuch) and never learned the song (too old) but do remember spending the night in the family camper to save our spot for the Pioneer Day parade. It was the only day of the year we got to eat those little individual boxes of cereal and I fought with my brothers over the sugary ones. Thank you for the reminder of those times :-)

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  19. Can I just tell you how much I love crazy Utah Mormons?! Alas, we don't celebrate the pioneers in T.O. I'm not sure we could handle it.

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  20. Somehow I ended up on a deck of a local deli in Nags Head, NC singing along, LOUDLY, to the Utah song on my laptop. This is your fault, Eli.

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  21. YES. I was in 4th grade during the Utah Sesquicentennial celebration. We sang the hell out of that song ALL. YEAR. LONG. And performed it for the Governor and probably 4 of 5 General Authorities.

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  22. I've been thinking of moving to SLC. This tipped me over the edge from 'maybe' to a definite 'HELL YES.' The easy persuasion is due to the fact that I miss celebrating a holiday such as this fabulous one. I grew up in Massachusetts where they celebrate Patriot's Day. It's the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord; the first battle in the America Revolutionary War. You know, no big deal. It's cool and all but....PIONEER DAY!!

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  23. Woo is Me....to be Canadian and miss all this....LOL

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  24. I remember songs like that!-- only mine was "andddddd HERE WE HAVE IDAHO!!!" and it went with a lot of trying-to-seem-enthusiastic hand gestures by a bunch of 1-5th graders. We claim all things huckleberry and panhandle, because hello--PANHANDLE. Of Idaho. Except for "panhandling". That's a whole different thing.

    I love that you have that kind of celebration in SLC. I'm thinking lots of photos are in order...

    Also p.s. I may or may not have mentioned you in my latest blog post, but it was in a really good way, so expect some upticks in snuggy text readership... just sayin'...

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  25. Eli, please tell us that you are planning on messing with the signs.! Nothing terrible or mean but clever in a way only you can do.

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  26. Hi Eli, I've been reading your blog for a few years - very good writing!
    Anyways, I'd never heard of PIONEER DAY - but growing up in upstate NY, of course we all knew about the Hill Cumorah Pageant, which I just found out from Google, celebrates PIONEER DAY, but in NY. Until now, I had believed it celebrated Joseph Smith receiving the word or something like that. Seating for 9000, at a site in between two towns with a combined population of 13,000.
    Anyway, I've learned a lot reading your blog, and it's usually always very funny too - nice way to start my morning.
    Happy Pioneer Day and good luck with your marathon.

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  27. I have you know I'm sitting here singing that song and I'm not from Utah. That song is very catchy and judging from the kids faces as they sing, they're fully enjoying themselves. Happy Pioneer Day!!

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    1. Lastly, hopefully the 10K ends with free cheesecake for everyone that participates since there is a "pie" in Pioneer lol!

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  28. I AM WRITING MY OWN VERSION OF 'UTAH! THIS IS THE PLACE". today.

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  29. I just want to testify for all of you: Eli's hair STILL looks fabulous with one mile to go in a marathon. Nice job this morning!

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    1. Thanks! And how exciting to see you cheering! I felt like a celebrity (with really good hair).

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