Brent Heninger has not missed a Days of ’47 Parade since 1947.
At 86 years old, Heninger arrived in Salt Lake City from Layton at 8 a.m. Monday to stake his spot on 200 East, just south of South Temple, where the parade begins.
Parade attendees are asked to wait until 6 the night before the parade before they erect tents and camp chairs, so Heninger waited in a nearby hotel Monday and Tuesday to make sure he’d be one of the first to claim a spot Tuesday evening.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m only 86,” he said, “It’s my tradition.”
As the announcer kicked off the annual festivity, Heninger sat proudly on 200 East with his wife, Kaye, as they watched 109 groups including bands, handcrafted floats and horses march from South Temple and State Street down 200 East to 900 South and finally ending at Liberty Park.
While Brent and Kaye sit in the front row, 101 of their closest family members and friends also got to reap the benefits of their sacrifices. As soon as the clock strikes 6 p.m. on July 23, Heninger sets up chairs along 200 East for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to watch.
“It’s very important to the family,” who has pioneer ancestors, he said. “My wife and my family are what keep me motivated.”
The Heningers were joined by hundreds of other families camping along South Temple, 200 East and 900 South on Tuesday night to ensure a perfect view to watch the parade.
Though it was his first time watching the parade, Paul Goold felt taking his 12 family members from their Salt Lake City home to 200 East to camp the night before the parade was simply part of the experience.
“We wanted to get a good spot,” he said, adding the ideal view was worth getting virtually no sleep.
West Jordan resident Ati Vainuku has camped the past three years with her three children.
“We do this for the kids,” she said. “It’s exciting and important for them.”
Vainuku said she and her family pass the time at night by playing games and attempting to sleep, which was difficult for them because the city sprinklers hit right on their makeshift campsite.
“That’s probably the only thing that ruined the night,” Vainuku said. “I would think that the city would plan better knowing people are going to be camping out, but they soaked everybody.”
While most don’t camp and instead arrive the day of, tens of thousands of people travel from across the state and country to attend Utah’s annual Days of ’47 Parade, held every year on July 24 to celebrate Brigham Young and Mormon pioneers settling in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.
“We, as a state, try to remember those that came to start this great state of Utah,” said Jodene Smith, the Days of ’47 Parade chairwoman. “That is how the state blossomed and grew from those pioneers that came over.”
Smith and her committee begin planning the parade in September.
“It’s definitely worth it,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”