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Pioneer Days celebrate western migration

July 20, 2009

About 100 people gathered at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cape Coral Saturday to celebrate Pioneer Days, commemorating the 162nd anniversary of the migration of 70,000 people from the midwest to Utah.

Some adorned the dress of their westward bound forebears and competed in pioneer games such as three-legged races, stick pole and tug-of-war.

Celebrated throughout the summer in Mormon churches, Pioneer Days mark the sacrifice of travelers, who fled west because of religious persecution.

Article Photos

GRAY ROHRER
Two Pioneer Day participants compete in a game of stick pole Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cape Coral as part of the annual celebration commemorating the migration of 70,000 pioneers.

"It is a celebration of the pioneers reaching Salt Lake City," said Guynell Krzak, public affairs assistant for the Tampa Mission, Fort Myers stake of the Church of Latter-day Saints.

A museum of sorts was also set up for the perusal of participants, featuring miniature handcarts that were replicas of those used by the pioneers, quilts in the pioneer style and a cannery of the 19th century variety.

Mary Deyo knows the hardships faced by the pioneers better than most. A member of the church, she embarked on a mission to Wyoming in 2002 through 2003 and visited many of the places the pioneers stayed during their trek west.

Some parties, like the Willie and Martin handcart companies, endured harsh weather and death on their journey.

"Early winter weather conditions made it harsh. They had no wood prepared to build hand carts. It was too late to get to Salt Lake City," Deyo said.

The clothing and the pioneer displays may have seemed anachronistic, but the story is quintessentially American.

"They were seeking an area to go where they could worship and not be ridiculed. They were coming for religious freedoms," Deyo said.

 
 
 

 

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