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Days Of ’47 Have Rich History Of Volunteerism

Jul 22, 2021, 4:11 PM | Updated: 7:08 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s volunteer efforts and community spirit have become one of the state’s enduring legacies. It’s a legacy that early pioneers who settled the state left for us and it’s this spirit that has made the Days of ’47 events stand out.

Greg James serves as Senior Vice President of The Days of ’47 Committee. “The courage of these people, the tenacity of these people, the faith of these people. Those are the values The Days of ‘47 wants to instill in people who live in this state.”

In fact, these celebrations couldn’t happen without the hard work and determination of all the volunteers who are passionate about preserving the past. Lane Summerhays is president. “ The Days of ’47 sponsors several different events and each one of those events has a committee.”

James talked about the commitment. “ The purpose of the committee of The Days of ‘47 is to continue the vision of the pioneers, to continue their spirit. Some of these people have done it for decades, literally for decades.”

Summerhays agreed. “And it becomes part of their lives and the fabric of their families.”

Lois Harmon opened one of her scrapbooks. “And I just clipped these things apart, a lot of years, a lifetime.” She is known as the backbone of The Days of ‘47. “We always had trouble with the bulls because they are so furious,” she remembers. “One of them got loose once and this poor, little woman was walking down the road and she heard all of this hollering and she turned around, and here comes this bull towards her! So, she jumped under a car to save her life!”

Summerhays said, “She and her husband, Flip, had the rodeo and they were involved in everything that happened with the parade. All year round their lives revolved around presenting the days of 47 activities.”

Flip and Lois Harmon began volunteering in 1961 and transformed the Days of ’47 Rodeo into a world-class event. Pointing to a photograph she said, “Here’s Flip waving his cowboy hat and these were the co-chairman of Days of ’47, Wilbur Parkinson and Kate Carter.”

She said that in the early years funds for the events were tight. “ Days of 47 didn’t have any money. We didn’t have sponsors at that time.”

Then in July 1970, President Richard Nixon came to town and attended the Days of ’47 Rodeo. “He wanted to see what this western culture was all about, “ she said. “ The Secret Service, the President, they bought out a couple of sections, they brought their children and a lot of people wanted to see him. And we did so well. And Flip finally had the cushion of money that he needed to make sure the rodeo could go on.”

For nearly 40 years Lois and Flip shared this passion for the Days of ’47. “Rodeo was Flip’s love. He was a true cowboy.”

At the time of Flip’s unexpected death in 1997, he was serving as the President of the Days of ’47 committee. He passed away just one month shy of the sesquicentennial celebration.

From our KSL-TV broadcast on July 24th, 1997. “ Flip is a lover of pioneers. If he were to see this parade today, I think he would be truly excited to see so many. And he’d be honored to be a part of it again this year.”

After his death, Lois continued her work on the committee for another 20 years. Her service latest nearly 60 years. There are others, like Lois, who have dedicated a good portion of their lives volunteering to help make the Days of ’47 celebrations special.

Jodene Smith remembered, “Back in ‘96, my dad was on the committee. And he said, ‘Come, volunteer and help.’  And I said, ‘Okay,’ and I’ve just kind of been doing it ever since.”

Organizing a parade is no small feat. The committee works year-round to pull it off. “This is one of the largest parades in the United States,” said Summerhays. “It’s 180,000 – 200,000 people on the parade route. It’s 120 entries, including floats about 60 floats, bands, horses, antique cars, military. It’s an amazing parade.”

Jodene Smith said for many it’s simply tradition. “It’s just a fun event. it’s just remembering our history, you know, pioneers and all they went through. I think that needs to be remembered. And so that’s what keeps me going.”

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Days Of ’47 Have Rich History Of Volunteerism