The Mormon pioneers viewed their arrival as the founding of a homeland after being driven out of Nauvoo, Illinois. The settlers traveled west seeking refuge from religious persecution. The final impetus for their trek was the murder of founder and prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. on June 27, 1844.
The pioneers made their way across the plains and over the Rocky Mountains to Utah determined to settle in an isolated region. They lost many of their party to disease during the winter months. By the time that they reached Utah, the desolate valley was a welcome sight. Potatoes and turnips were soon planted, and a dam was built. With solemn ceremonies, the settlers consecrated the two-square-mile city, and sent back word that the “promised land” was found.
Nearly 2000 Mormons had settled in the Salt Lake Valley by the end of 1847. The first Pioneer Day was celebrated in 1849 with a parade, band music and speeches. In modern times July 24 is celebrated annually as Pioneer Day.
Pioneer Day is a state holiday in Utah so county offices (except emergency services), educational institutions, and many businesses are closed. In some areas, some public transport services, such as buses, do not run on public holidays. People are advised to check public transit schedules first before they decide to travel via public transport during a public holiday.
Pioneer Day activities include fireworks, parades, picnics, rodeos and other festivities throughout the state. Some people say that this day is celebrated in Utah with more zeal and pride than major holidays. Children take part in essay contests and projects about pioneers, while families enjoy the day with concerts and festivals. For the parades, some people may wear costumes that resemble clothes worn during the 19th century when Salt Lake Valley was founded.
“Industry” officially became the state motto on March 4, 1959. It is associated with the symbol of the beehive. The early pioneers had few material resources at their disposal and had to rely on their own “industry” to survive. The word “industry” appears on both the state seal and the state flag.
The beehive became the official state emblem on March 4, 1959. Utah’s residents relate the beehive symbol to industry and the pioneer virtues of thrift and perseverance. The beehive was chosen as the emblem for the provisional state of Deseret in 1848 and was maintained on the seal of the state of Utah when Utah became a state in 1896.