All Abuzz: Celebrating with the Beehive

Pioneer Day Semi-Centennial 1897

Horse-Drawn Beehive Float in Pioneer Day Semi-Centennial Parade (1897). Utah State Historical Society, 2015.

Pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Utahns commemorate and celebrate this event every 24th of July with Pioneer Day. Festivities include parades, fireworks, and activities of every kind, held by state and local entities, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, either separately or in partnership.

Because it is heavily associated with the pioneers, the beehive frequently appears in these festivities in a variety of forms, although parade floats and entries were and still are the most common. The meaning of these beehives depends primarily on the context of use.

Maeser 1st Pioneer Day Float

Pioneer Day Float Celebrating Hard Working Utahns (1969). Uintah County Library, 2010. 

The State of Utah recognizes July 24 as a state holiday. In this context, the beehive represents the state’s history from its earliest beginnings to the present.

Mendon Days

Hope's Honeybee Preschool's Parade Entry in 2018 Mendon Days' Pioneer Parade. Jim Brown, 2018.

Most cities and counties across Utah hold local events to celebrate the holiday. Here, beehives stand for a sense of community as locals work together as a hive to put on the event, just like a colony of bees making honey. 

Vernal 2nd Ward Float in Pioneer Day Parade

Pioneer Day Parade Float Made by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Vernal 2nd Ward (1970). Uintah County Library, 2010.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate their religious heritage on Pioneer Day. Beehives are reminders of the sacrifices early members made to establish both the Church and what became the state of Utah, where the Church is headquartered.

In addition to yearly observations, Utahns also celebrate significant anniversaries of the pioneer’s arrival.

  • 1897 Pioneer Semi-centennial or Jubilee: 50th Anniversary
  • 1947 Pioneer Centennial: 100th Anniversary
  • 1997 Pioneer Sesquicentennial: 150th Anniversary

A variety of souvenirs and commemorative pieces were produced for each anniversary, with many of them featuring the beehive. Although less prominent than those for the Pioneer Centennial, pieces recognizing 100 years of Utah’s statehood also featured the beehive.

Ouzounians' Centennial Rug

Ouzounians' Centennial Rug. Utah State Archives, 1980.

Pioneer Day a World Away 

While Pioneer Day, the Centennials, and their beehives are connected to Utah because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global religion, many individuals outside of Utah also celebrate the holiday in recognition of the Church's history and heritage. Using traditional Armenian weaving techniques, the Ouzounians, a family of converts, wove this rug for their home in Syria to commemorate the Pioneer Centennial.

Do you celebrate Pioneer Day? What do you do to celebrate? If you attend celebration events, see if you can spot any beehives.