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Draper Journal

Draper Historical Society looks back at July 24th celebrations of yesteryear

Jul 01, 2019 03:23PM ● By Katherine Weinstein

This old pioneer parade float appeared in a July 24th parade in the early 1950s. (Photo courtesy Langford Lloyd and Doug Ballard/Draper Historical Society)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

In the days before automobiles, making the 20-mile trip to Salt Lake City from Draper in a horse-drawn wagon was an arduous, all-day affair. Many made the long journey in the summer heat just to experience the Pioneer Days Parade and festivities that took place every year on July 24. By the early 1900s, however, the growing community of Draper decided to hold their own celebration, which eventually evolved into a series of special events known today as Draper Days.

The history of how the city of Draper has celebrated the 24th of July over the decades is the subject of this year’s Historical Society Heritage Banquet and Draper History Presentation, which will be held on Wednesday, July 17, at 6 p.m. at Willow Springs Elementary School. 

Draper Historical Society encourages all members of the community to attend the heritage banquet. “You don’t have to be a long-term resident of Draper to appreciate it,” said board member Brent Miller of the event. “It would be great to have you come and learn about our history.”

The banquet is the main annual event put on by the Draper Historical Society, which also maintains the museum at 1054 Pioneer Road in Draper. Miller, who joined the board in 2016, has enjoyed attending many of the banquets and presentations over the years.  Recent topics presented at the heritage banquets have included the history of the poultry industry in Draper and Draper residents who played key roles in the history of aviation.

Presenter Doug Ballard described this year’s presentation as “a time capsule of July 24th celebrations.” His talk will begin with a brief history of the holiday known for many years in Draper as, simply, “the 24th,” but will also include his own reminiscences of the festivities. 

As Ballard researched his subject, the earliest reference to a July 24th celebration in Draper he found dates back to 1904 when the community organized a parade and put on a theatrical reenactment of a fierce battle between settlers and Native Americans.

By the early 1950s, the events that comprised the 24th began to look a little more like the celebrations of more recent memory. The parade was a mainstay with ever-more elaborate floats. The first Queen of Draper was crowned in 1946. Fireworks displays, initially put on by the volunteer fire department, started in the early 1950s. The horse pull became part of the festivities around that time as well.

In the Draper Historical Society’s collection, a flyer for the Draper 24th Celebration from 1970 highlights the popular car giveaway and lists other events such as a sunrise flag-raising ceremony, the parade, a horse-pulling contest, horseshoe pitching, baseball games, bingo, carnival rides and a chicken-catching contest.    

As Draper evolved from a small rural town into a growing suburb, the 24th celebration grew and changed along with it. Draper Days was established during the tenure of Mayor Elaine Redd in the early 1990s. This year’s Draper Days features community events beginning on July 9 culminating in the parade and fireworks on July 20, the Saturday before the Days of ’47 celebration in Salt Lake City. 

Ballard is looking forward to sharing his memories of the 24th at the heritage banquet. He participated in the celebration in many ways over the years. “My mom opened the Iceberg Drive-In in Draper in 1960,” he explained. Ballard rode the Iceberg’s float in the annual parade and took video footage of the crowds lining the streets in 1989 and 1994.  Members of the community contributed to Ballard’s presentation by sharing their own photo memories of the 24th over Facebook.

The Draper Historical Society Heritage Banquet and Draper History Presentation will take place on Wednesday, July 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Willow Springs Elementary School, 13288 South Lone Rock Drive in Draper. Tickets are $12 per person and may be purchased from the Draper Historical Society, Draper City Hall or from any member of the historical society. Seating is limited. For more information, contact the Draper Historical Society at 801-495-3476 or visit the Draper City website.