Eagle Mountain’s city celebration reflects history of Pony Express
Jaxon Burdette slides down the final slide in a playhouse at Eagle Mountain's Pony Express Days on Friday, June 6, 2014. GRANT HINDSLEY, Daily Herald
Pony Express Days was held at Nolan Park in Eagle Mountain, Saturday, June 3, 2006. BRENDA MANOOKIN / Daily Herald
Jabe Anderson, of Dillon, Montana, competes in the Steer Wrestling event at the annual Pony Express Days Rodeo in Eagle Mountain on Friday, May 27, 2011. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald
Dune buggies round a curve near the crest of one of Eagle Mountain's surrounding foothills during a dune buggy tour as part of Pony Express Days on Thursday, June 5, 2008.
Zack Carter, 20, hurries to reattach a wheel to a friend's vehicle after a particularly rowdy rookie heat at the Pony Express Days Demolition Derby Friday, June 1, 2012, at the Eagle Mountain Pony Express Rodeo Grounds in Eagle Mountain. Nearly 3000 attendees packed into the sold-out venue to watch the family-friendly destruction. JORDAN STEAD / Daily Herald
MARIO RUIZ/Daily Herald Hundreds of Pony Express Elementary School children are sprayed with water from a fire truck after a ceremony to officially open Porters Crossing Parkway in Eagle Mountain Wednesday, May 27, 2009. The 1700 foot stretch of new road was approved and financed by the city this year and will connect the Pony Express Parkway to Smith Ranch Road. Eagle Mountain City Engineer Chris Trusty said the two-lane road will provide access to an elementary school, three LDS meetinghouses and approximately 600 homes. Mayor Heather Jackson said she the new road in the city will ease traffic in front of the elementary school and provide an exit for residents during the Pony Express Days Parade in a couple of weeks.
Manu Pagua, 10, lays on the ground feeling sick as the shadow of the ride he just left, "The Hammer," spins over his head, a carnival ride that turns its passengers upside down at Eagle Mountain's Pony Express Days on Friday, June 6, 2014. GRANT HINDSLEY, Daily Herald
Cyclists make their way to the finish line during the Pony Express Century Ride in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, May 25, 2013. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald
Runners near the finish line during the 5K Cupcake Charity Run on Saturday, June 2, 2018, near the Silver Lake Amphitheater in Eagle Mountain. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald
A driver playfully motions to another within the rink before the start of a professional heat at the Pony Express Days Demolition Derby Friday, June 1, 2012, at the Eagle Mountain Pony Express Rodeo Grounds in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Nearly 3000 attendees packed into the sold-out venue to watch the family-friendly destruction. JORDAN STEAD / Daily Herald
Cars collide with reckless abandon at the Pony Express Days Demolition Derby Friday, June 1, 2012, at the Eagle Mountain Pony Express Rodeo Grounds in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Nearly 3000 attendees packed into the sold-out venue to watch the family-friendly destruction. JORDAN STEAD / Daily Herald
Don Jenson, left, watches through binoculars as Don Allred takes aim on a 3D target during a Pony Express Days archery get together at Wasatch Wing and Clay in Eagle Mountain Saturday, May 28, 2011. MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald
Corbin Cote plays a game during the Pony Express Days Family Fun Night at Nolan Park in Eagle Mountain on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald
Audience members watch their friends compete in the Pony Express Days Best Trick Skate Competition at the Eagle Mountain skatepark on Saturday, May 25, 2013. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald
Samantha Diesel hugs "Sleeping Beauty" prior her and her family seeing their newly decorated home in Eagle Mountain, Tuesday, June 1, 2010. As a part of Pony Express Days in Eagle Mountain, two community heroes have been chosen - both 5-year-olds with cancer. One family got a fishing trip to Alaska, and the Diesel family got a weekend in Salt Lake City and then new furniture, toys and a backyard playground set. PATRICK SMITH/Daily Herald
MARIO RUIZ/Daily Herald The Elkalah Mini Bikes club rides down the Pony Express Parkway in Eagle Mountain during the Pony Express Days parade Saturday, June 2, 2007.
Ben Spiva, of Eagle Mountain, hangs on to four-year-old Austin Spiva as they soar over the Pony Express Days festival on a ride called the Start Trooper on Saturday, June 4, 2005. When the ride was over Austin fell down because he was dizzy but said he wanted to go on the ride again. The event was held at Nolan Park in Eagle Mountain. JEREMY HARMON/Daily Herald
Mike Scoresby and his son Jake, 6, shield their eyes to look for their mom on the ferris wheel at Eagle Mountain's Pony Express Days on Friday, June 6, 2014. GRANT HINDSLEY, Daily Herald
`Pony Express Days was held at Nolan Park in Eagle Mountain, Utah, Saturday, June 3, 2006. BRENDA MANOOKIN / Daily Herald
Pony Express Days in Eagle Mountain started as a small parade that circled the town’s roundabout with a few activities at Pony Express Park and the rodeo grounds.
Like the city itself, Pony Express Days has grown substantially and now celebrates with a week of events that takes in everything from a pancake breakfast, demolition derby, rodeo, concert, parade and more.
While 2020 events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents of Eagle Mountain are still finding ways to celebrate their history, freedom and summer traditions.
Pony Express Days is one of the youngest celebrations in Utah County. Eagle Mountain wasn’t incorporated as a town until Dec. 3, 1996. It has since grown into a class four city.
The Pony Express Days celebration didn’t come along until about five years later, according to Donna Burnham, city councilwoman.
According to Burnham, they expect the 2020 census to show the city has about 43,000 residents with the median age being just over 20 years old. There were only 240 residents in 1996.
The city and the celebration got its name because of the famous postal route used to get mail service from this side of the Missouri River to California.
The Pony Express route was nearly 2,000 miles long overland, had about 190 stations mostly in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, and required about 10 days to cover. Each rider generally rode 75 to 100 miles and changed horses every 10 to 15 miles, according to the encyclopedia Britannica.
The Eagle Mountain area of the Cedar Valley was one of the exchange points along the route. One of the most famous of the riders was Buffalo Bill Cody.
While it only lasted for 18 months and went bankrupt when the telegraph came in, the history of the Pony Express and its presence through Eagle Mountain has made a significant impact on the city and its residents.
Just a few years prior to the Pony Express coming through the valley, Utah was facing a crisis on the political front.
On June 26, 1858, a U.S. Army expeditionary force, led by Commander Sidney Johnston, marched through Salt Lake City– at the denouement of the so-called Utah War. But there was no war, at least not in the sense of armies pitched in battle; negotiators settled it before U.S. troops and Utah militiamen faced off. On June 19, the New York Herald summarized the non-engagement: “Killed, none; wounded, none; fooled, everybody,” according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
Johnston’s Army marched past modern day Eagle Mountain and settled for more than a year at Cedar Fort just a few miles south. Tourists and local school children still visit the historic site and other points of history that run parallel to Eagle Mountain.
However, it is the history of the Pony Express that captured the hearts of Eagle Mountain.
Finn Kofoed remembers the first Pony Express Days celebration.
“It was very different. It was a very small parade down Eagle Mountain Boulevard,” she said. “Everyone came out. We’re a very tight community. The parade draws a lot of people.”
Chris and Finn Kofoed have seen many changes and tremendous growth since they first moved in. Even the phone service has changed.
The Kofoeds moved in just at the time of incorporation. They were the first family to sign up for electrical and phone service.
“We got to choose our telephone number,” Finn said. “We had a party line.”
Before the city’s rapid growth, the area was basically relegated to raising sheep and dry farming. Of interest to hikers and archeologists are the number of petroglyphs left by the Fremont Indians that lived in the area about 1,800 years ago.
“Cedar Valley was a place where people came to shoot rabbits,” Finn Kofoed said. “It’s full of jack rabbits, coyotes, antelope and bald eagles.”
The wind can be ferocious, according to Kofoed. If it weren’t for the Pony Express history, the city celebration could have easily been dubbed Tumbleweed Days.
“There is an army of tumbleweeds,” Kofoed said. “We (sometimes) have to dig our houses out. Now that the city has developed there are less.”
Kofoed said the windiest months are March and April. A few years ago the wind was so bad it blew hundreds of tumbleweeds up against her home while she was at work. There were so many she couldn’t even get into her house before a crew of people could help get rid of them.
Strong winds, tumbleweeds and even a few jackrabbits won’t stop the residents of Eagle Mountain from celebrating this week.
The city and event planners have worked hard to encourage families to carry on the traditions and prepare for next year’s celebration.
The activities below, if held and recorded by photo or video could garner families a number of prizes.
According to event planners, participants will be selected by random draw to win prizes. There will be multiple winners per activity.
Activities began Saturday and on Tuesday families were to hold pancake dinners and movie night.
The city is encouraging the following activities with more information on the city website at https://eaglemountaincity.com/ped2020/:
Wednesday – Family Fun Day
Show us a photo or video of your family enjoying a day outside in Eagle Mountain. This might include visiting a park, biking, walking or even a fun activity in your own back yard.
Prize: Summer fun basket with outdoor play toys and activities
Thursday – Senior Appreciation Day
Celebrating our 2020 high school graduates. Share a senior yearbook or graduation photo from any year (please don’t mention the year or school name for identity protection).
Prize: Eagle Mountain hoodies
Friday – Flashback Friday and Talent Show
Choose one or both activities.
Flashback Friday: Share a favorite photo or memory of Pony Express Days
Prize will be a $20 gift card to Fat Cats.
Talent Show: Share video of any talent. This is not a serious competition folks. Have fun with it!
Prize: Home Entertainment-themed gift
Saturday – Tag a Vendor and Boxcar Derby
Tag a Vendor: Support local businesses. Tag or share a social media or website link for your favorite vendor from the carnival or for any local business.
Prize: $25 gift card from a local business.
Box Car Derby: Get creative, Eagle Mountain. Make a boxcar out of anything you find around your house. Line up in the backyard and race to the finish line. Share pics or video.
Prize: Tickets to the 2021 Demolition Derby, courtesy of Pony Express Events. (2) tickets per winner.