OGDEN, Utah — A northern Utah couple dubbed “modern-day pioneers” have been named the first Hispanic grand marshals of Ogden’s parade on the holiday honoring Mormon pioneers who trekked across the country in search of religious freedom.

Restaurant owners Javier and Amada Chavez said they were honored to fill the high-profile roles Monday in the Ogden Pioneer Days Grand Parade, the Standard-Examiner newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/2uQ3IUh ).

The two grew up in rural farming communities, and have been interested in the Pioneer Days rodeo since they arrived in Utah four decades ago, settling in the small city of Ogden, which is north of Salt Lake City.

Pioneer Day celebrates the date in 1847 when Mormon pioneers ended their treacherous journey across the U.S. from Illinois and discovered the Salt Lake Valley.

“I am a cowboy,” Javier Chavez said. “I used to ride horses and donkeys.”

Now owners of seven Javier’s Authentic Mexican Food restaurants from Farmington to Logan, the couple has provided food at the rodeo’s hospitality cabin on one night every year for 15 years.

“This is my contribution to the community,” Javier Chavez said. “I came here. I had nothing. They have given me so much.”

Javier Chavez came from the town of Zoquite in the Mexican state of Zacatecas to the U.S. on a track and field athletic scholarship to Ogden’s Weber State University and said his coach was an important mentor. He also served as a volunteer cross country and track coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School for nearly two decades.

He said his motto became “Si se puede,” or “Yes, you can.”

It’s something he said often to the couple’s four children, who have all gone on to earn advanced university degrees, Amada Chavez said.

“He says ‘You can do it. You can succeed. It’s not easy but you can,'” she said.

The Chavez family is an example of modern-day pioneers who support the community as employers, philanthropists and mentors, said Alan Hall, chairman of the celebration in Ogden.

“We are very pleased to honor this remarkable couple who are outstanding community advocates,” Hall said.


This story corrects the spelling of Amada Chavez’s first name. It is Amada, not Amanda.


Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net