The first company of Mormon pioneers, led by Brigham Young, officially entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on 24 July 1847. For Latter-day Saints, this event has come to signal the founding of a new homeland for the purpose of establishing their earthly Zion.
Mormon pioneers first commemorated this new beginning in 1849. The celebration took place near the spot that Young had recently designated as the site of a future temple, the holiest place in Mormondom. The observance consisted of a procession which led Brigham Young from his home to a bowery on Temple Square to which members of the nearly twenty local LDS congregations had marched earlier that morning behind their respective bishops. Under the bowery, Young presided over a devotional full of both religious reverence and zeal. The celebration ended with a thanksgiving feast for a bountiful harvest and the blessings of a merciful God.
From these obscure but auspicious beginnings, Pioneer Day (also called Covered Wagon Days, Days of `47, or simply July 24th) has grown into one of the largest regional celebrations in the United States. Salt Lake City remains the center of this observance, but the founding of a Mormon homeland is annually commemorated throughout the Mormon Culture Region and elsewhere among LDS congregations. In the words of sociologist Thomas O’Dea, Pioneer Day has become “the greatest Mormon holiday.”
July 25th will be a state holiday. Banks, and government agencies and some businesses will be closed.