From parades and pageants to five nights of heart-pumping rodeos, there is something for everyone at the Ogden Pioneer Days festival.
With over 80 years of tradition, Ogden Pioneer Days is Utah’s biggest statehood celebration according to Jeff Haney, social media director for the Ogden Pioneer Foundation.
“To me, Ogden Pioneer Days is one of the best times of the year,” said Haney. “There’s just something special about seeing the stadium all spruced up and ready to welcome the crowds.”
Drawing in more than 30,000 people annually, Pioneer Days brings the Old West back to life by treating the audience to an exclusive western experience and a taste of their inner cowboy.
“Pioneer Days is big because it gives us a chance to reflect back on our pioneer heritage,” said Jackie Belnap, executive secretary, who stated that nearly 365 days go into planning this event that will cascade over the month of July.
The Pioneer Days kicked off on June 27 with festivities ranging from western films to horse displays all leading up to the July 24 finale.
“Well, actually Pioneer Day is just about two dozen events during the month of July,” said Craig Bielik, the marketing and public relations director. “But the 24th, of course, is our big day.”
Some of the events leading up to the 24th include National Cowboy Day where they introduce one American cowboy from every county in Utah. Patriot night and “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night are also featured events where military veterans and cancer survivors are honored in the arena.
“Those are great nights to be in attendance,” Belnap said.
Ogden Pioneer Days stays true to its roots by culminating with five consecutive nights of rodeo. According to Haney, the Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo has been nominated several times as the best rodeo in the Wilderness Circuit by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.
“Ogden’s rodeo also has been nominated numerous times for the best rodeo of its size,” said Haney. “This means Ogden Pioneer Days is one of the 20 best in a field of more than 700 rodeos in the country.”
Every year, the rodeo is celebrated at the historic Ogden Pioneer Stadium, where everyone can come to watch the riders get down and dirty with the bulls and broncos. According to Beilik, the rodeo is one of their biggest appeals among the audience.
“Our rodeo, little old Ogden’s rodeo, always sells out,” said Bielik, who pointed out that their rodeo is exceptional for its quality and uniqueness. “We get people that are really good at what they do. We just have a great rodeo.”
July 24 dedicates its closing ceremony to the coronation of Miss Rodeo Utah 2015 who will move on to compete for Miss America. Then, after the fifth PRCA rodeo, the pro-tour FMX motorcycles will do jumps and tricks before the big firework finale.
“The crowning of Miss Rodeo Utah is very big attraction. The fireworks also always bring in a lot of people and so do the motorcycles,” said Belnap, who hopes that people will get great family entertainment out of this event.
Bielik’s favorite part is upholding his family traditions by watching the mutton bustin’ event before the rodeo.
“It’s hilarious, watching those little yippers,” he said. “Some of them make it all the way across the arena and some don’t even make it one second, but it’s always funny. I just love their spirit.”
Aside from all the events, Ogden Pioneer Days keeps up with the pioneer legacy by allowing the audience to revisit their history, celebrate a western way of life and create long-lasting traditions.
“Many families come back year after year after year. We provide an amazing show for them,” said Haney. “It’s not just for cowboys — there is something for everyone.”