Not living in Utah makes celebrating Pioneer Day a lot more difficult. No parades really to attend (unless the ward opts to do one). No decorations about town. No fireworks shows. About the only thing that happens is mention of it at church. :-(
So what's a mom to do to celebrate Pioneer Day under these circumstances? Well, here are six easy activities to try:
This does not have to be super difficult--no Dutch ovens required! You have permission to go the hot-dog-on-a-stick route if you want. Or you could take it up a notch to Hobo dinners (tinfoil dinners). Here is a link to 21 tinfoil recipes you could try. To make it extra pioneer-like, have your children gather sticks and pine cones to use to help with the fire.
If you are brave, you might try to make some of these more authentic pioneer recipes. The buttermilk donuts sound yummy!
Pulling sticks is probably the most famous Mormon pioneer game and can easily be played with a broom handle. Sit face to face and foot to foot with your opponent. One person's hands are on the outside of the other's. Both players pull as hard as they can. The stronger player will remain seated, while the weaker (losing) player gets pulled upward.
Additionally, this article in the 1989 July Friend Magazine describes some fun games pioneers played. One easy game (NO equipment required!) is Shadow Tag. It is played like regular tag, except instead of touching the other person to tag, the It Person only has to step on the shadow of one of the other players.
Crossing the plains was a lot like hiking. Add some cowboy hats, bandanas, or boots and it becomes even a little more authentic. While hiking, sing some songs about pioneers, or talk about how hard it would have been to be outdoors all day and to not have enough water or supplies. Of course, if you live anywhere near a pioneer trail, be sure to use it!
There is something about hearing true stories of real pioneers that helps to bring the whole purpose of Pioneer Day into perspective. The sacrifice and endurance the pioneers experienced can help us to have a higher level of appreciation. If you are not sure if any of your ancestors were pioneers, log onto this website on FamilySearch.org and it can help you search. In lieu of that, there are plenty of pioneer stories in the Church magazines and other books (I Walked to Zion is a favorite of mine).
Pioneers relied heavily on animals to live and thrive. Oxen and horses helped to pull wagons across the plains, but other animals were essential to living on the frontier and to farm. If you live near a petting zoo, have a neighbor with farm animals, or can attend a local rodeo, take time to learn and appreciate this aspect of pioneer life.
Alternatively, you might choose to learn about animals pioneers would have seen while crossing the plains (i.e., bison, rattlesnakes, bear, prairie dogs, etc.).
This website has some darling craft ideas for Pioneer Day. There are ideas for a wide variety of age ranges and skill levels to consider. I think I will let my daughters each choose one to do this upcoming week!