- Associated Press - Thursday, July 24, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Cities and towns throughout Utah celebrated the state’s hardscrabble heritage Thursday, with parades, rodeos, concerts and more marking the arrival of Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

The cornerstone of the annual Pioneer Day celebration is the downtown Salt Lake City parade, with thousands of spectators lining the route Thursday morning to watch the procession of elaborate floats, marching bands and local officials.

The parade is among the oldest in the country, having first been held in 1849.

This year, about 125 floats entered in the parade, according to the Deseret News.

Families began staking out positions along the parade route at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

By midday Wednesday - roughly 20 hours before the parade was scheduled to start - hundreds of people had set up camp with lawn chairs, blankets and sleeping bags.

“The sleeping out is more fun than the parade,” Carley Straley, 21, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Straley and her family spent Wednesday afternoon playing the board game Risk while camped out near the parade route downtown.

Nearby, the weeklong Days of ‘47 Rodeo was being held at the nearby Energy Solutions Arena, while a full marathon, half marathon and other races wrapped around the downtown events.

Police closed roads around the city Thursday morning and expected most closures to be lifted by early afternoon.

Parades, picnics and other Pioneer Day celebrations were scheduled throughout the state.

Rodeos were held in Ogden and Spanish Fork, and Provo hosted its annual Pioneer Extravaganza, featuring games, crafts and food,

Residents of Cedar Fort marked the holiday Wednesday night with an annual city-wide water fight where everyone is considered fair-game.

The Daily Herald reports residents cruised around neighborhoods on trucks and ATVs with water balloons, squirt guns and buckets filled with water.

In nearby Lehi, the city was holding its annual Foam Day on Thursday afternoon, where attendees wearing swimsuits and goggles frolic as firefighters wielding hoses coat a city park in sudsy foam.

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