A Short History of the 24th of July in Draper
Draper residents have always been involved in July 24th celebrations. In 1857, Andrew Jackson wrote: “Having got thro with my harvist I concluded to attend the selebration and a picnic party at the head of Big Cottonwood Canion 26 miles from my home.” Draper residents were among 2,587 Saints celebrating the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. President Brigham Young led the three-day celebration. On July 24, the flag was unfurled from the highest peak followed by a prayer, singing and the roaring of the cannon. During this celebration the official news of Johnson’s Army was delivered.
In the following years the Saints looked forward to their July 24th celebrations. Loyalty to our country was exhibited by raising the flag, singing the Star Spangled Banner and reading The Declaration of Independence.
Eunice Walbeck wrote: “The outstanding celebration among the people living here at the time was the 24th of July celebration in 1882. It was held in Ebenezer Brown’s orchard on Fort Street. For a number of evenings before the celebration men and boys gathered and took down all the dead trees and trimmed the live ones and cleaned up the place.” The Draper Sunday School was in charge that year and they decided to introduce ice cream and soda at their celebration. Bids were taken from those who wished to make the new refreshment. Mr. and Mrs. William Terry and Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Terry were the lowest bidders.
Property for the Draper Park was acquired from Joshua Terry about 1901. It was a flat piece of ground with no hills and no streams. The first July 24th celebration was held there in 1902 and once again the cannons roared; breakfast was served and booths were opened for selling goodies. Over the years games were held along with a greased pig to catch, a greased pole to climb, pony rides and ball games. Horse racing and fireworks were later introduced.
The first year a car was given away was in 1946. Raffle tickets were sold for $1 each and the car that year was won by Allen P. Smith. This continued for many years.
In early years the LDS Wards were in charge of the celebration and each ward had a float in the parade. At one time there was a fence around the park and it was necessary to purchase tickets to get in.
When asked what they remembered most about the 24th celebration, several older Draper residents said the same thing: “It was always held on the 24th of July.” They remembered the games, races, cook-offs, Bingo, horse pulling contests, the ball games with the young against the old-timers, train and little car rides along with pony rides for the children.
Over the years the parade routes and many other things have changed but the reason for the celebration will always be the same.
Let us remember our freedoms as we celebrate this year.