Pioneer Day 2020 – a Different Kind of Celebration

When all summer activities were cancelled because of Covid spread, it became apparent that another type of celebratory commemoration would be in order. I’ve always been fascinated by the pioneer history; I love family history and world history. Several of my ancestors were among the devoted who were driven from their homes because of cultural conflicts due to religious and social differences in the the Midwest. Kicked off his farm by lawless mobs in Illinois, English immigrant Christopher Layton was camped on the prairies of Iowa when the U.S. Government sent recruiters out to the displaced Saints. There was a war going on with Mexico over western lands. Washington wanted the westward-bound Mormons to show their loyalty to the US by marching a battalion of 500 men out to San Diego to fight for America. Ironic because these same men and their families had lost their properties to mobs of violent Missourians and Illinoisians. Chauncey Webb and his brothers had closed up their blacksmith shop in Nauvoo Illinois to flee to the west for safety as well. The state and federal governments were unable or unwilling to stand for their Constitutional rights of these religious refugees but they were asking the men to die for their agenda.

The reason I’m leading off with this, is that we are once again under siege. While religious services are cancelled or curtailed because of Covid, rioters are allowed in the streets of Salt Lake City damaging property and demanding cultural changes that include Marxist anti-family, anti-Christ doctrine. The world seems to have turned upside-down. We knew hardships and persecution were coming but the form was unknown. Lawlessness and violence once again fill the headlines as so-called “protesters,” criminal, looters and rioters commit crimes and atrocities in revenge for what they see as injustices against their interests. (If you’re keeping score – 9 unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019. 19 unarmed white men were and 89 police officers were killed. It looks like it is much more dangerous to be an officer of the law than a criminal, and yet protesters rage about inequity.) Law-abiding citizens are taking up arms as they choose not to be victimized for the troubles and a history that they had nothing to do with. And the circle continues.

On a happier note, 173 years ago, weary pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley with the hope of peace and religious freedom. Despite the deaths and losses they suffered on the trek across the plains, they were willing to continue to put everything on the altar for their religion and faith. We honor the memory of the pioneers of 1847 and those that followed, especially the modern pioneers.

Willliam Shakespeare was related to many of the pioneers. His aunt Margaret Arden was an ancestor of the Webb family.

With the popularity of the princess culture among children, I thought it would be fun to combine the western theme with a touch of royalty. In fact, among the pioneers there were and are people who are related to many of the rulers of Europe and Scandinavia. And Shakespeare; the Webbs referenced above were first cousins to William Shakespeare (many times removed; their ancestor Margaret Arden was the beloved sister of Shakespeare’s mother Mary Arden.)

As a child growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern California with no close Utah relatives, I knew nothing about the events that took place around Pioneer Day in Salt Lake City. We had a Primary activity where we dressed up in long skirts and paraded around the ward building; that was pretty heady stuff! We sang songs about pioneer children and covered wagons and listened to stories and donated pennies destined for the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Later as a teacher and leader in the Primary, I participated in and then planned activities for our 100 + children that gave them interactive experiences replicating those of pioneer youth. Another year we planned an activity for the entire ward of about 350-400 including teens and adults. These activities can be incorporated into your own commemoration this year (and there are more that you can find with a quick internet search.) So for your enjoyment, here are Pioneer Day activities and games for your family celebration.


A trip to the fabric store or your own fabulous stash can yield the materials needed for your very own pioneer-style outfit. Look for costume patterns sales and coupons to save $. I used a pattern for a bonnet but improvised for the apron and skirt. To add some fun, I quickly knitted a little purse, something a pioneer might have used.

A bit of scrap yarn and a couple of hours yield this cute little knitted purse.
I am not afraid to admit that I shamelessly continue to use vintage Americana as decor for Pioneer Day. After all, the US was only about 60 years old when the Latter-day Saints moved west.


A trip to Hobby Lobby, a favorite thrift store or other retailer yields vintage treasures that can be adapted for Pioneer Day decor. This aged sifter was fitted with florist foam to hold faux wildflowers, a scrapbook paper medallion, pinwheels, flags and a wooden heart. Other ideas include tattered banners, anything beehive themed, old flour sacks, burlap and other natural materials.

Handmade hammers created using an anvil and forge at a blacksmith class

My husband and our youngest son took blacksmith classes and built themselves each a Thor hammer. How cool is that? The blacksmith genes apparently never left our bloodline.

Pastoral, agrarian images take us back to simpler times. In a watercolor class at the University of Utah, we were assigned to make a painting after the style of a favorite artist. I LOVE French artist WIlliam Bouguereau and tried my hand at this shepherdess. If you can learn to create it, you can have anything you want.

I saved a beehive-themed valance from my youngest son’s Winnie-the-Pooh nursery a long time ago. It comes in handy for Pioneer Day decor.

Old quilts, anything western, Native American, canvas and country can be used for decor. Enamel camp dishes, cast iron, wooden crates all add to the vintage pioneer look. Even Early American works – think, wooden, handmade and natural.

Enamel and splatterware camp dishes are perfect for Pioneer Day. Add your galvanized tin for a rustic look.

A quilt book from a thrift store and some repurposed wedding announcements yielded these note cards. Replace the ribbon with twine for a more rustic look.


Thrifty pioneers used everything and wasted nothing. Clothes worn out? Make rags – rugs, cleaning supplies, even dolls and toys. today if you have old books or cards, you can make note cards, recipe cards, invitations, etc. with the pictures.

This Pioneer Scavenger Hunt teaches children about the lives of pioneer children. You can collect and make all of the items and hide them, having the children find them, Or create stations where they actually perform the tasks. The downloadable file is available here.

Pictographs enabled Native Americans from different tribes to communicate when there were language barriers. This set of 72 symbols can be used to tell a story or just learn about the Natives that lived in the west. The file can be purchased here and downloaded. I printed them on cardstock and laminated them so they can be reused multiple times.

Delicious beehive bread makes a yummy breakfast or treat


Here’s a yummy treat for breakfast or any time.

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a William Sonoma beehive baking pan with pan release spray that contains flour, or use a 9” x 5” loaf pan, sprayed and lined with parchment.

Stir together

1 C bread flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2  tsp nutmeg
            Set aside the flour mixture. Cream together

1/2 C butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar


6 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened (low-fat cream cheese)
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
            Beat in one at a time
4 eggs

Gently fold in flour mixture, blend well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 37 – 40 minutes in the beehive pan (or at 325 degrees for 85-95 minutes in the loaf pan).  Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with butter.

If the bread is too pale you can place it on a cookie sheet and pop it back in the oven for a few minutes.

This all I have time for today, I’ll come back before July 24th and add a few great recipes and fun for your celebration. In the meantime, here are fun images to inspire your imagination.


Happy Independence Day

We’re feeling a little sad on this Independence Day. No fireworks, no parades, none of the usual activities that we enjoy to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Our families have been counseled not to gather and many of us have been home-bound since March. We’ve worried about the Chinese virus and watched as our nation shut down economically, socially, and physically. We’ve been told that this isolation is the new normal. And as President Trump and our leaders were battling heroically to get us back on track, another massive disaster hit. A part of the United States population decided they had been marginalized and unfairly treated for too long began to burn down the cities, destroy the memorials and sculptures that contain our history and heritage. Our law enforcement officers were targeted, abused, dismissed and even as they tried to protect and serve, they were attacked and injured and killed.

Earlier the Democrats, enraged that their corrupt and morally bankrupt leader presumptive wasn’t awarded the presidency, have plotted, lied and worked against our culture and our country and especially the duly-elected president, reaching a horrific crescendo with a failed coup which they dressed in sheep’s clothing and called an impeachment. Our weary hearts and minds may conclude that the Bard was correct when he stated:

How can we help our country? What can we do? For my part I have been involved in a political campaign as a volunteer coordinator. My mayor and friend decided last year to run for U.S. Congress. The election was this past week.

Even though she put up a great fight with her message of freedom over fear; sadly she did not prevail. But I was so proud of her courage and tenacity trying to restore our dwindling freedoms.

Parents, what can you do? As a “retired” parent, teacher and grandparent, I recommend that you teach your children the truth about America, teach them self-reliance, self-control and that their actions determine their futures. Teach them tolerance and respect and that they can be the positive change that our country needs. Teach them that “wickedness never was happiness.”

On a brighter note and in the spirit of celebration, lets hold in remembrance all of those who fought for our freedoms, who maintain our safe communities and enrich our homes. We at McMurtry Creative Media would like to thank you and recognize your service and sacrifice. God bless you as you bless America!

Here are some of my favorite photos of the best of this inspired experiment we call America.

The Liberty Stamp by
Painting by Arnold Friberg
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Flickr. mealisab 
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Joseph F. Smith
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Even though our celebration was different this year; we did enjoy delicious meal. Our son Tim who has become an accomplished chef in his own right, treated us to a Southern-style feast. Tim lived in Alabama for 2 years, teaching about Christ and serving the people there. He learned a lot about the Southern culinary culture and loves to highlight their cuisine.

Tim’s 4th of July Menu

Grilled racks of pork ribs

Macaroni with 4 cheeses

Baked bourbon and brown sugar beans

Grilled corn on the cob

Ice cold watermelon

Fresh lemonade

Banana pudding with whipped cream

Cherry-berry cheesecake pie (cheesecake on the 4th has become a new tradition that we enjoy!)