JULY 12-20, 2019
Steel Days Title Sponsor: Bank of American Fork
Countless hours are spent by our committee and volunteers to ensure a successful Steel Days celebration every year. This year we are excited to announce some improvements and new events for everyone to enjoy. The biggest change is that we are moving the carnival to Art Dye Park. We are also adding a Kids Splash Night, Pickleball and Spikeball Tournaments, and a BBQ Competition. Remember to like our Facebook page to make sure you are staying up to date with the latest news. Click on the picture below to see the full version of last year's Steel Days Magazine. The new magazine will be posted as soon as it is completed.
The 2018 Steel Days Magazine is now available online! Look for your copy of the 2019 magazine in your mailbox by July 1st.
HISTORY OF STEEL DAYS
For over 100 years the city of American Fork has gathered together to celebrate its history, achievements, business community, and residents. This annual celebration is now known as Steel Days, but throughout the years the festivities have also been called Timber Day, Liberty Day, and Poultry Day.
Timber Day was an all-day picnic with music, entertainment, and games. It began about 1865 and was held in a grove of trees known as “The Timbers.” Families brought food prepared especially for the occasion, laid it out, and shared it with others. There were activities for young and old, with a horseshoe competition, foot races, and ball games. Timber Day was observed until approximately 1904.
Liberty Day had no set date but alternated between July 4 and July 24 to mark the nation's birth date along with the residents' pioneer heritage. The picnic in the park continued in Central Park, which is now known as Robinson Park. There was an organized parade with decorated flatbed horse-drawn wagons. When automobiles were introduced, they were decorated and driven from one end of Main Street to the other. Until 1910, the city's roads were dirt and gravel, increasing the challenges of such travels.
There was usually a theme chosen for each year's celebration. In 1925, it honored the various states of the United States. There was a baseball game, dance, and fireworks. The tradition of shooting off a cannon from the cemetery hill early in the morning marked the start of the day's events.
In July 1927, Poultry Day began with a modest celebration. It was expanded in 1928 with a town banquet instead of the previous picnic. There was also a parade, ball game, races, carnival, and a program and dance. Mary Pulley was the first Poultry Day Queen. During the banquet, a server spilled a pot of hot chocolate in Mary's lap. She simply wiped it up and went on with the day.
The Sunrise Salute, or firing the cannon, continued at daybreak. There was a free lunch with 10,000 chicken sandwiches served. There was a flower show, art show, and an all-day movie showing at the Cameo Theater.
There were no celebrations held during the years of the Depression. Poultry Day was held in July 1941, but with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, all American Fork celebrations were eliminated during the war, with the exception of a small neighborhood party in 1944.
Since 1945, Steel Days has been American Fork's traditional celebration. Then-mayor O. De Vere Wootton decided Poultry Day no longer reflected the city's economy. The newly constructed Columbia Steel Mill brought many newcomers, who made an impact on housing, utilities, traffic, and commerce. The mill became the largest employer in Utah Valley. Two individuals suggested “Steel Day” after a request for ideas for a name for the celebration. Steel Day was selected and was celebrated on Labor Day.
In 1946, Steel Day was a full day of events, similar to Poultry Day. The parade featured numerous floats decorated for and by local businesses. Bands came from Tooele, Salt Lake City, Nephi, Payson, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, and Provo. The parade was presented twice for many years - at 10 a.m. from 500 W. Main to 500 East, and at 6 p.m. the route was reversed.
The duration of Steel Days expanded to three days, then four and five days, and eventually to 10 days. The celebration was also expanded to include horse racing when the track was completed at American Fork Riding Club Arena. Currently, Steel Days runs for 8 days and includes over 30 events.
Vehicles were also important in Steel Days history. In 1961, the Jaycees held a drawing for a Ford Falcon. However, it did not prove to be enough of a draw and there was a $1,500 deficit after the ticket sales were tallied. The next year, the car was a sporty Thunderbird and ticket sales increased dramatically. The evening program featured a singing group from Ogden, "The Osmond Brothers,” complete with Donny, who even then stole the show.
Despite those successes, there was no celebration in 1963, 1964, or 1965. Civic clubs apparently did not want to take over managing the celebration. There were, however, abbreviated queen pageants held.
In 1965, the city used a smaller approach, calling it “Community Day.” It included a pet and hobby show and a short evening program with fireworks. The next year, it changed to a larger celebration, held in July. In the late 1960s, the American Fork Boat Harbor was developed and boat racing was added to the list of events.
In 2003, events marking the city's 150th birthday were incorporated into the celebration, even though they were held earlier in the summer. One event was an attempt to break the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most candles on a cake. According to the rules, all the candles had to be burning at the same time. Community members, volunteers from schools, and others baked sheet cakes and froze them prior to the attempt. Despite a breezy evening, the event was a success. However, the attempt was not. Shortly prior to the celebration, another community lit more candles on a cake. Their record was not verified – or known publicly – until after American Fork's attempt was made, so American Fork did not know it needed to adjust the number of candles. Nevertheless, the main purpose was for community members to enjoy the camaraderie and they seemed to – as they have during all of American Fork's celebrations throughout the years.