Prairie Princesses and Pioneers

Let’s celebrate those hearty souls that braved the dangers of the land to settle the west! This year marks my family’s 400th anniversary in America. We have participated in many chapters of the building of this great nation including the mid-nineteenth century westward migration.

These ideas for Pioneer Day celebrations and family reunion heritage events are from my A Holiday Handbook II, Pinterest and other interesting sources.

SLC Brass Doorknob

July 24th is the anniversary of the day my ancestor, Chauncey Gilbert Webb, entered the Salt Lake Valley, Utah with Brigham Young and the first company of Mormon pioneers in 1847. The Webbs owned one of the 48 blacksmith shops in Nauvoo, Illinois. As the pioneers moved westward, Brigham Young invited the Webb brothers to accompany his wagon train; sort of like taking your auto mechanic on a long cross-country trip. Chauncey’s great…great grandmother Margaret, and William Shakespeare’s mother Mary Arden were sisters. You never know who you’ll meet on the plains. 

Happy Pioneer Day! 

Here in Utah it’s celebrated on July 24th, in Kansas it is celebrated on January 29 to commemorate the anniversary of the state’s 1861 admission into the Union. Other states celebrate their founding or admission to the U.S. on different days.

Tallgrass Prairie Sunrise

Children learn best when they are having fun. So I created activities to help them learn about the lives of pioneer children and I hope your littles enjoy them too.
Some of the members of the Mormon Battalion were working at Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento when gold was discovered. You might let children pan for gold (shiny pennies) in a sand box and use them to buy treats if they wish. We had salt water taffy that they could buy for a penny each.

Authentic pioneer activity: beanbag game

One of the fun games from that era is a beanbag toss competition, it’s easy to put together with beanbags and a target like a bucket or cornhole game.

Round up stick horses for racing and add squirt guns for putting out prairie fires and bagging buffalo.

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Children of all ages enjoy writing in another visual language. Try sharing stories written in Indian pictographs. We used cut-out brown paper pelts for the structures. You can recycle grocery bags or buy a roll of brown paper. You’ll find a printable download with 72 Native American signs and symbols in my Etsy shop:

This scavenger hunt can also be downloaded from Etsy

Children’s Scavenger Hunt: Hide items around the yard that represent activities and chores of pioneer children: tend animals (a small stuffed animal), make cheese (wrap string cheese in brown paper and tie with a string), sew on a button, gather firewood, hunt for eggs, make a quilt, sing a song, pick fruit, make candles, make soap, plant potatoes, milk a cow (bucket)

Newell and Tim made their own hammers at a forge in Salt Lake City.

Have a few more activities that they can do: as hammer nails into boards and collect glass beads for bracelets. You can even pan for gold (shiny pennies) in a small wading pool – stay nearby for toddler safety.

Teen Challenge – See how many points you can get by completing these challenges:
Say the alphabet backwards: 1 point for each correct letter in backwards order. Name 10 flowers: 1 point each. How many buttons are on your clothes? 1 point for each button. Write your name and phone number. Count the letters in your name for 1 point each. Add together the digits in your phone number then add the number of letters in your name. How many large marshmallows can you stuff in your mouth? 1 point each,no you don’t have to swallow them – ewww. Blow a bubble with bubble gum, 2 points for each piece you can chew.

BEAN For Adults (could you have bean a pioneer?) Its like a bingo game – use dry beans for markers and move the activities around to different places on each card, cut one up to call with. To win, get four in a row

Do you have what it takes to be a pioneer? Make this into a bingo game or play charades.

If you are hosting a celebration and don’t want to serve a whole meal, you might want to make honey butter and raspberry butter and freshly-baked breads. Serve ice cold watermelon and fresh lemonade for a cool treat.

pioneers with style

Prairie Party Menu 
Serve this on a quilt picnic blanket; use bandanas for napkins and enamelware dishes, canning jars for glasses.
A handful of wildflowers in a jar will add beauty.

Fried Chicken Salad – make it easy on yourself by using a prepared bagged green salad from the produce department, a couple of green onions; cut up, a cucumber; a peeled and sliced cucumber, fried chicken strips from the deli, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, Ken’s Steakhouse light bleu cheese salad dressing. Serve with sourdough rolls, honey lemonade, homemade butter (let the children shake a jar of cream with a sprinkle of salt to make butter – they love it), cold watermelon and homemade ice cream

Pretty bottle and tag

Need a bit more Pioneer Day eye candy? Check out the cuties at:

One year on Pioneer Day, I invited my granddaughter Ellyza to have a treasure hunt in the yard. She took her tiny basket and began collecting oak leaves, flowers and small pebbles. A two year-old knows what treasure truly is.