Britney Summers watched Saturday as her three children learned how to milk a cow at a simulation station.
It was one of the activities the Las Vegas family enjoyed during Pioneer Day at Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park.
Decorated wooden cow cutouts complete with “udders” were lined up on a few tables. As Summers’ children – ages 9, 7 and 4 – each milked their cow, water splashed into plastic containers.
“William, do you like drinking milk in your cereal?” Summers asked her son, checking in on him as he milked his cow.
Pioneer Day is one of the biggest events of the year at the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, parks interpreter Carson Fehner said. The event’s origins date back more than 10 years.
“It’s a huge draw for the local LDS community,” Fehner said, referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In past years, the Saturday morning event has drawn anywhere from 1,300 to 1,400 attendees, but Fehner said he expected a slightly lower turnout this year.
Festivities included fiddle music, train rides, food and beverages such as root beer floats, and pioneer games. Inside the air-conditioned visitor center, attendees took a break from the morning heat, with temperatures already reaching the low 90s before 10 a.m.
The highlight of the event for the Summers children: the ride on the Jupiter Express Train, modeled to look like the Central Pacific Railroad’s “Jupiter” steam locomotive. They also enjoyed a station where they got to dress up in period costumes.
In Utah, Pioneer Day is celebrated as a state holiday July 24. It commemorates the arrival of the first group of Mormon settlers, led by Brigham Young, in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
Locally, the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort was established by 30 pioneers who arrived in June 1855, Fehner said. They built the first permanent, non-native settlement in the Las Vegas Valley.
“We are the birthplace of Las Vegas,” he said. The historic park is in what’s now the city’s downtown area.
Saturday was the first time the Summers family had visited the fort. It turned into an educational experience for the children.
“We talked about how people lived in the old days,” Summers said. Her children, she added, were appalled to learn the pioneers didn’t have beds and had to sleep on the ground.
Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at email@example.com or (702) 387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.