5 ways to help your children catch the pioneer spirit

This handcrafted wagon by Jesse Loveless takes kids for a ride around (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

This handcrafted wagon by Jesse Loveless takes kids for a ride around North Park on Pioneer Day. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

It’s hard to say enough good things about the Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed the plains to Utah. They were committed, spiritual, hardy, tough. Every year, Utah celebrates that unbreakable attitude July 24, but you don’t have to brave long parade lines in Salt Lake to honor the state’s forbearers. Here are a few easy ways to help your kids catch the pioneer spirit:

1. Have your own neighborhood Pioneer Day parade

Round up your neighbors and “trek” around the block. Kids can decorate and pull toy wagons, or simply deck out bikes, scooters and skateboards with pioneer-themed décor. If you are feeling really ambitious, you can find tutorials online for making pioneer clothing, like this one.

2. Host a Dutch oven cook-off

The Mormon pioneers brought Dutch ovens with them as they crossed the plains, according to Pioneer.Utah.gov. In 1997, the Utah State Legislature even made the Dutch oven the official State Cooking Pot (for reals).

This Buttermilk Pie recipe is from Doug Martin's cookbook, "Sweet Cast Iron Creations." (Photo courtesy Doug Martin)

Click the picture to get the Buttermilk Pie recipe is from Doug Martin’s cookbook, “Sweet Cast Iron Creations.” (Photo courtesy Doug Martin)

If that’s not enough reason to make your dinner in a heavy, cast-iron pot, how about this: Dutch oven food is super-tasty. Cook like a pioneer with this easy buttermilk pie recipe, from author Doug Martin’s new cookbook “Sweet Cast Iron Creations” ($16.99, Hobble Creek Press). His book is available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Click here for the recipe.

3. Visit This is the Place Heritage Park

This historic pioneer village and park is having a specific Pioneer Day-themed celebration July 24 and 25. Activities those days include a parade, candy cannon and watermelon eating contest. But you don’t have to wait until Pioneer Day to enjoy This is the Place. It’s open daily except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Admission is $11 adults, $8 children (3–11) and seniors. With more than 50 historic structures, it will show your children what life was like for the state’s early settlers.

4. Make pioneer food, arts and crafts

Children might enjoy making their own butter, taffy or pretzel log cabins.  The children’s craft collective The Crafty Crow has tutorials on simple covered wagons, rag dolls, dipped candles and stick ponies. Finish off the afternoon or evening with gunny sack races (check with your local feed store for sacks), three-legged races or a stick pull. According to an article on LDS.org, Latter-day Saint church founder Joseph Smith Jr. was the champion stick-puller of Hancock County, Illinois, in the summer of 1843.

5. Run from temple to temple

Hosted by the Provo South Stake at 8 a.m. July 24, this 5-kilometer walk and run is set to be the largest race in Utah. Best of all: It is free. The race begins at the Provo Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and winds through the streets of Provo to the under-construction Provo City Center Temple.

Participants must register here and pick up a race bib prior to the race. Organizers are asking participants to bring a can of food to bib/packet pickup, and to dedicate their run to an ancestor. (There is a place on the race bib to write your ancestors’ names). This run is a great way to  honor a pioneer forbearer and to celebrate good health and the beautiful state of Utah. After the race, you can head over to the free Provo Pioneer Day festivities. They run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at North Park, 500 North 500 West in Provo.


Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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