All pioneers honored during 2019 Gila Valley Pioneer Days

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Like always, this year’s Gila Valley Pioneer Days celebration ended with a bang.

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

By Jon Johnson

Handcarts, wagons, and a plethora of youth led the 2019 Gila Valley Pioneer Days Parade down Church Street and Stadium Avenue on Saturday. This year’s theme was “Honoring all Pioneers.” 

The annual festival celebrates Brigham Young and other Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pioneers’ arrival into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. In Graham County, the festival has grown to include the LDS pioneers who made their way into the Gila Valley, as well as other southwest pioneers. This year, legendary San Carlos Apache Tribe member Chesley Goseyun Wilson served as Parade Marshal. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Traditional garb and handcarts were abundant in the parade.

Friends and family came from far and wide to descend upon the Gila Valley to take part in the festivities, which kicked off Friday night with a variety show at the David M. Player Center for the Arts and the annual Pioneer Days Rodeo in Pima. The evening’s festivities then culminated with a family dance at the Pima LDS Stake Center. 

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald: PB&H reunited to close out the variety show Friday night.

Saturday morning kicked off with the Pioneer Days 5K, followed by a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and a volleyball tournament.

As dusk neared, the floats so carefully prepared by local wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and families got into position at Thatcher High School and began their processional down Church Street and Stadium Avenue to the delight of all lined up along the route.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: A festival goer tries her best in the potato sack race.

After the parade, the throngs of people gathered at Eastern Arizona College’s John T. Mickelson Stadium to enjoy smoked barbecue dinner and other treats and to spend the evening with family and friends. There were fun activities for the children to keep them busy until dark and included a tug-of-war, potato sack races, and more. 

Once darkness fell over the land, the night sky was lit up with the annual fireworks show, which also signified the end to another year of festivities.

Click here to view a photo album from the parade and get together.