“Grand Encampment Celebrates Historical Events,” Ensign, Oct. 1996, 77–78
Church history, state history, and local history came together 12–13 July 1996 at Council Bluffs, Iowa, while Church members and local citizens celebrated 150-year-old events that resulted in the Mormon Trail, Iowa statehood, and the founding of Council Bluffs.
Thousands of people gathered for the two-day Grand Encampment held on the campus of the Iowa School for the Deaf, the site where the LDS pioneers camped as they reached the Missouri River on their journey west. The event was named after the Grand Encampment of the summer of 1846, when more than 13,000 pioneers set up camp, stretching over a nine-mile area.
Events held during the Grand Encampment included a reenactment of the mustering of the Mormon Battalion and a modern-day cotillion, as well as visits by President Gordon B. Hinckley. (For further coverage of President Hinckley’s activities, refer to preceding story.) On 13 July, five companies paraded for review in front of some 9,500 onlookers during Mormon Battalion reenactment activities. A brass band played during the march of the 500 men, who were descendants of original Battalion members and dressed in period clothing. Another group of about 80 women and children marched, representing a similar group that accompanied the actual Mormon Battalion. (A sixth company of full-time missionaries from the Nebraska Omaha Mission also marched, receiving loud applause from the crowd.)
Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy spoke during the activities, summarizing the history of the Mormon Battalion. Speaking to the men who were portraying their dedicated ancestors, Elder Pinnock said: “Thank you for your courage. We salute you, we wish you well. Our prayers, thoughts, and dreams go with you.”
Also participating during the reenactment were Dr. Larry C. Porter, a Brigham Young University professor; Ann Stoddard Reese, who spoke from a descendant’s point of view; Council Bluffs mayor Tom Hanafan; and Steve Young, a football player for the San Francisco 49ers and a great-great-great-grandson of President Brigham Young. He gave the mustering speech during the reenactment, playing the part of his ancestor.
Later that evening, more than 1,000 participated in a cotillion, dancing on the parade field for two hours to music from the 1840s, much as the pioneers might have done a century and a half earlier.
The Grand Encampment was one of numerous events held throughout Iowa to celebrate its statehood; many of those events have also commemorated Church historical events because the LDS pioneers made a great impact on development of the area. Those events have included a February reenactment of the beginning of the pioneer trek in Nauvoo (see Ensign, June 1996, 77) and an Iowa Mormon Trail Historical Symposium. In addition, two different groups re-created the wagon trek across Iowa.