Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2017

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Southern Nevada’s early pioneer days celebrated


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Cambra Blau helps her son Raith Blau make a candle during the 12th annual Pioneer Day festival at Fox Ridge Park Saturday, July 20, 2013.

Pioneer Days Festival

Kids bask in the spray from a fire hose during the 12th annual Pioneer Day festival at Fox Ridge Park Saturday, July 20, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Children received a history lesson Saturday afternoon during the 12th annual Pioneer Day parade and festival at Fox Ridge Park in Henderson.

Throughout the morning, a few men and women dressed in pioneer garb walked around while children with syrup-stained mouths munched on melting snow cones and soaked each other at the “Dunk the Pioneer” booth.

Inside a church, children lined up to make candles, excited for once to do a chore, albeit a pioneer one. They also made yo-yos; square danced and played stick-pull (a game in which two people yank on opposite ends of a stick to see who can stand up first). Every activity reinforced pioneer history.

“It’s a good way to talk to the kids about why we do this (event); talk about the sacrifices pioneers made years ago,” Jason Nielson said. “It’s a good discussion starter for the kids, rather than sitting at the table saying, ‘Let’s talk pioneers.’”

Hundreds of families attended the festival, held to honor the Mormon pioneers who settled the Utah Territory in the 1800s, while also providing free activities for the community.

“The whole purpose of this event is to celebrate our pioneer heritage, our patriotic feelings for our country, and to strengthen our families,” event coordinator Paula Clark said. “This is not just a 'Latter-day Saints only' event.”

Shannon and Aaron Lancaster attended the event with their four kids, who had just finished making candles. Aaron Lancaster said the activities keep the kids busy, but also provide an opportunity to talk about pioneers.

“They’re asking a lot of questions,” Lancaster said. “They wonder why we don’t do some of this stuff.”

Meanwhile, local businesses used the opportunity to be involved with the community.

“In Las Vegas there aren’t as many community events,” said Matthew Wirig, who operated the “Dunk the Pioneer” booth, and owns Wirig Orthodontics. “So I feel everyone is responsible to support them when they do occur.”

The most popular activity, however, has nothing to do with pioneers. At the end of the event, a Henderson Fire truck arrives and cools down the crowd spraying them with the hose.

By the end of the event, Kevin Romney, stake president of Green Valley Latter-day Saints, hopes families take a little pioneer history with them when they leave.

“Oh we try to teach them about their pioneer heritage,” Romney said. “It’s a great part of our culture, and part of what we are and who we are. So we teach them. Do they understand? Well, they’re learning.”

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