On Saturday, July 26th 2014, approximately 125 children and adults in families from three different Chesterfield wards (congregations) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered at the Cogbill Road LDS meetinghouse for a morning of music, games, and other activities to celebrate Pioneer Day.
Pioneer Day is recognized as an official holiday in Utah, usually celebrated on July 23rd, but is also often celebrated by members of the LDS community in other parts of the world, as it commemorates the arrival of the first Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. Salt Lake City was founded as a place for members of the LDS church to freely practice their religion without persecution.
When asked about the reasoning behind organizing such a celebration here in Virginia, President Lora Watkins, of the Belmont Ward Primary (children's Sunday School) said, "In Virginia, Mormons are pioneers because they introduce their religious beliefs to people who have no knowledge of what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in or stands for. We, as modern Mormon pioneers have the task to let others see our community and religion.”
Watkins explained why she believes children should be at the focus of this effort: "It is good for children to be connected to history in order to see that if other people can overcome great odds, it is possible for them in the future to tackle and overcome their personal challenges.”
Children wore bonnets and straw hats, reminiscent of their pioneer forebears, as they tackled such challenges as washing clothes by hand using a washboard, making ice cream by turning a crank, and pushing a handcart. But it wasn't all work and no play: other activities included sack races, line dancing, and a stick pull. Belmont Ward member Kasi Hurley, mother of seven said, "My kids really enjoyed the dancing and have "dosie-doed" many times since then together in our living room." Meadowbrook Ward member Alisha Starnes, mother of five said, "My kids really enjoyed helping to make ice cream and then eating it!”
Several full-time LDS missionaries volunteered at the event as well, helping children with the games and activities. Missionary Sister Stilson, from Provo Utah, said of the celebration, "I thought it was great the way people celebrate their heritage. It doesn't matter where you are, there are always people who have paved the way for you.”
Kasi Hurley summed up her family's experience by saying, "I am so thankful we attended and for allowing my children the experience. I am grateful for my Pioneer ancestors and the many sacrifices they made to live the gospel and share their example of living by faith."
Photos courtesy of Kasi Hurley, Bethany Crisp, and Heather Dubon.