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It’s Pioneer Day for Mormons But Pie and Beer Day for the Rest of Us

Although two-thirds of Utah’s 2.9 million residents are Mormons, not everyone is content with H2O on a God-given day off from work—and today’s a Friday, no less!

by Alex Swerdloff
Jul 24 2015, 5:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Andres Adermark

Today is Pioneer Day in Utah, a day that celebrates the state's Mormon heritage with parades featuring goodly women in prairie dresses, floats, and carriages. Most government offices and businesses will be closed in the state, all in commemoration of the day that Brigham Young led the first group of Mormons into the promised land of the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

But what the hell do you do in Utah today if you're not a Mormon?

You could enjoy the old-timey pageantry of the parade and chase back some saltines with a tall glass of tepid barley tea. After all, Mormons abstain from alcohol. As part of their commitment to a moral family life, Mormons in Utah will not be celebrating Pioneer Day with some killer tiki drinks.

But although two-thirds of the state's 2.9 million residents are Mormons, not everyone is content with H2O on a God-given day off from work—and today's a Friday, no less!

So some of the state's residents have invented an alternate celebration: Pie and Beer Day.

Say you happen to be a resident of Utah and do not believe that Joseph Smith discovered a book in upstate New York in the year 1827, a book that was written on gold plates with characters from a language called "reformed Egyptian."

Say you don't buy that an angel named Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and told him where the book was buried, imploring him to translate it into English and form a church.

Say your ancestors—or even your relatives—are not like Brigham Young, and do not have 55 wives apiece.

Just what are you to do on Pioneer Day? Answer: Bring on the pie and beer!

The drungry alternative to wholesome Pioneer Day began, by some local estimates, about a decade ago. The faux holiday pokes gentle fun at the Mormon celebration, but few seem to mind.

"It started catching as on as a counterculture thing," Mike Riedel, author of the Utah Beer Blog, told local news affiliate ABC13 about the newfound holiday. Bars like the Shooting Star Saloon, owned by Leslie Sutter "really play it up." Waitresses wearing bonnets will give out free slices of pie to all customers.

"We have a good time with it," said Sutter, "We have root beer, too. We don't discriminate," he added.

Pie and Beer Day is getting big in Utah. In fact, in what can only be called a meta-twist on the new alt-holiday, at least one Mormon church has decided to attempt a new take on Pie and Beer Day—with Pie and Ear Day. Yes, the women of the Clearfield 18th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now holding an activity in which they enjoy pies and ears of corn.

"The ladies made pies, and we had corn on the cob," said Nancy Gardner, wife of the Congregation's Bishop. They also had a taffy pull and made aprons out of dish towels. My word! I do believe all this gaiety has left me with a case of the vapors! These particular Mormons really know how to live it up.

The bottom line is this. As Utah—like the rest of America—gets more and more diverse, Pie and Beer Day may truly compete as an alt-holiday to Pioneer Day. As for Pie and Ear Day, who knows.

Ah, holidays. Whether they immortalize that time you skitched across the adobe vista that is the American Southwest or merely celebrate the intrinsic beauty of a mathematical constant, they are pivotal to retaining any semblance of spontaneity and sanity in this otherwise sepia-tinted, humdrum world.

And it is safe to say there is arguably no better way to skillfully lambast a holiday you've never heard of before than by celebrating an even more obscure holiday parodying said holiday.

Happy Pie and Beer Day!