11 fun ideas to help you celebrate Pioneer Day in style

Dnews Pioneer Child Memorial
Children play in a steam at the Children's Pioneer Memorial at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday, July 20, 2019.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Pioneer Day is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Still recovering from the Fourth of July and haven’t figured out your plans yet? Never fear. These fun activities and food ideas will have you celebrating in pioneer style in no time.

A Taffy Pull

Nothing says Pioneer Day like pulling taffy. So how about trying your hand at the classic Lion House recipe? Check out all the ingredients on Deseret News and get ready to pull—and taste—to your heart’s content.

Pulling taffy can be a fun—and tasty—way to celebrate Pioneer Day.

All the Cakes

If taffy isn’t your jam, try out this Swedish jam cake instead. The recipe was originally shared in the 1972 Ensign in honor of the thousands of Scandinavian Saints who came to Zion between 1862 and 1863. Other fun recipes highlighted in the article include foods from more areas where pioneers emigrated from, like Wales, England, Germany, and Austria. So if you have ancestors from one of those countries, try out a recipe or two to help make Pioneer Day more personal to you.

Another article in The Friend shared a recipe for Johnnycakes, one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s favorite dishes. With only seven ingredients, the recipe is easy to whip up and would be a yummy treat no matter the time of day. You can also check out other recipes from the article like apple candy as well as bread and milk, a dish that Wilford Woodruff often made.

Doughnuts on a String

What better way to celebrate Pioneer Day than to both snack and play a game at the same time? For this activity, tie a rope or a string between two trees. Then use ribbons to attach doughnuts to the rope so they hang just above mouth level. See who can eat the doughnuts fastest, but remember—no hands are allowed during the competition!

If you feel like going all out for this activity, try making some buttermilk doughnuts, which was a pastry that Brigham Young enjoyed. You can find the recipe in this article in The Friend.

Tying doughnuts on a string and seeing who can eat one first without hands is an entertaining and a fun way to celebrate Pioneer Day.

Three-Legged Race

There’s nothing easier to throw together for a last-minute Pioneer Day activity than a three-legged race. All you need are some bandanas or even just some rags for this game to work, and some willing legs, of course! Try to find a wide-open space in a park or in a yard for this game, but you can also have one pair race at a time and use a stopwatch to see who’s fastest if you have less room.

To begin: Have two partners stand next to each other shoulder to shoulder and use the cloth to gently tie a knot around their inside legs. Create a finish line and see which team can get there first! Or if you want to get creative, switch things up by creating an obstacle course, walking backward, or adding the extra challenge of keeping a balloon steady between the partners’ hips. If the balloon pops or drops, then it’s back to the beginning you go!

Tag—You’re It!

A 1989 article in The Friend shares some fun ways to play tag like pioneer children once did. So if you have a group of kiddos this Pioneer Day, this might be just the thing for you.

Here’s how to play: Once someone is chosen to be “it,” that person tries to tag someone else not by touching them, but by stomping on their shadow. Whenever someone steps into the shadow of a tree or other objects and makes their shadow disappear, whoever is it can’t catch them. But there are only 10 seconds of safety allowed in that shadow before the person has to leave again, so make sure to choose wisely!

Want to try another version of tag? Pioneer children also played chain tag. In this game, two people are it and hold hands as they chase others in the group. Once they touched someone, that person has to join the chain, making it even longer as more and more people are tagged.


▶You may also like: Pioneer trivia quiz: 9 fascinating questions that might change how you understand the trek west

Water Relay Race

If you’re running out of energy to play games in the heat of the day, try a water relay race to help you cool down. Here’s an easy one to get you going.

First, divide participants into two teams and have each team stand in a line. Next, give every participant a cup that they’ll use during the game. Then place a bucket full of water at the front of each line.

To play, have the person at the start of the line fill their cup with water from the bucket before pouring it backwards over their head while the person behind them tries to catch the water in their cup. Continue down the line until the last person dumps the water in their cup over their head and into another bucket behind them. Keep going until all the water in the first bucket is gone. Whichever team has the most water in their bucket at the end is the winner!

Skipping Rocks

This is one of the easiest games in the world to prepare for because nothing but rocks are required. So if you feel like taking it easy this year on Pioneer Day, this activity was made for you.

Want to make an event out of it? How about planning a picnic by a pond or a reservoir for some prime rock skipping? You might also want to share a few pioneer stories while you’re there, whether of the original pioneers or of pioneers in your own family history. If you want a little competition for when you start skipping rocks, you can always see who can get their rock to skip the most times or who can skip rocks the farthest. For best results, make sure to keep a sharp lookout for small, flat rocks that aren’t too heavy. And if you’re trying to think of a prize for the winner, then a little rock candy might not be a bad idea … just saying.

Skipping rocks is a classic and easy game that everyone can participate in and have a good time doing together doing on Pioneer Day.

Pioneer Parade

Ready to get out and about and have a little fun? You’ll find it’s a cinch to create your own Pioneer Day parade. All you need is some pioneer clothing—bandanas, straw hats, cowboy hats, bonnets, and skirts—and a group that’s game to walk around the neighborhood to pull it off with success. Make sure you bring some music with you if you can to make the atmosphere more festive!

Target Practice

See how good of an aim you have this Pioneer Day with some target practice! Just set up a few empty cans in a park or backyard and see who can knock down the most. Remember to make sure your way is clear before you shoot and that the method you use to knock down the cans is safe for everyone inolved—even something as simple as gathering a few good rocks to throw will do the job.

▶You may also like: 7 amazing facts about Porter Rockwell

Pioneer Day Dinner

If you’re ready to go all out for Pioneer Day, there’s nothing quite like a full pioneer-themed dinner! If you want to get really authentic, check out “A Melting Pot of Pioneer Recipes,” which also includes the recipe for the Swedish jam cake and Norwegian fruit soup mentioned earlier. Or if you want to mix things up, make some easy Dutch oven recipes, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and homemade ice cream. Decorate with some checked tablecloths and bring a few fresh-cut flowers as centerpieces for table decorations.

Pie Extravaganza

Who says you have to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy a little pie? If you’re having people over for dinner, ask everyone to bring a pie to enjoy for dessert—even better if it’s a family recipe with a story behind it that they can share with the group. Or if you want to get adventurous, ask everyone to keep the pie flavors a secret and do a blindfolded taste test to see who can guess the right flavors. You can also do a pie-eating contest if you like—just try to not get too sick!

Celebrate Pioneer Day with lots of different kinds of pies.

We hope that some of these ideas can add a little festive flair to your Pioneer Day celebrations. But no matter how you recognize the day that the pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, may the sacrifice of those early Saints both inspire your faith and encourage you on your own pioneering trails today. So from all of us at LDS Living, Happy Pioneer Day!

On July 24 1847, the Latter-day Saint pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. July 24, 2022, marks the 175th anniversary of that historic day.

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