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Oregon Trail Days

August 2, 2010

Hoooo-eee. Yessiree, Bob. This here’s a mighty delayed post. Oregon Trail Days in Gering happened, like, two weeks ago.

I blame . . . uh . . . the enormity of the festival. Yeah, that’s it.

Oregon Trail Days is a pretty big deal around here. It’s Nebraska’s oldest continually-running celebration. Been going on since . . . um . . . 89 years ago . . . (doing the math) . . . 1922? (Oh, wait. I looked it up. 1923.) Wow.

The festival has something for everyone, which is a good thing. I enjoyed some parts of the festival more than others.

The BBQ and street dance, kiddie costume parade, car show, chili cookoff, quilt show, square dancing, and Julianne Hough concert did not appeal to me, so I skipped those parts. I also have not been here long enough to qualify for the “Old Settlers Club” (50 years or something), so I could safely ignore those items on the agenda.

I totally would have participated in the Don Childs 5-mile run on Friday morning, but the knee was not cooperative. It was an out-and-back race from downtown Gering that turned around at the entrance to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Hubby and I went to the “international” food fair Friday evening. I don’t know if I’ll attend another. I put “international” in quotes because all I could find that was “international” was Mexican and Chinese food. Someone told me there were gyros, but I missed them. All stuff I could get elsewhere on any ordinary day, plus some greasy, salty fair food.

The oh-so-exotic fried potato strip, with a mini cup of cheese sauce that cost $1 extra.

It wouldn’t have been so bad except I can’t stand crowds, and 10th Street was packed to the gills with people. People bumping into you and bumping your heels with their baby strollers. People suddenly stopping to chat with friends. People cutting past you while you’re waiting in line 30-40 minutes for cotton candy. I suppose it’s a good place to meet people and mingle, but I was not in the mood to deal with the crush of humanity that evening.

I had a better time on Saturday, even though I was working and had to be covering the events I attended.

Though I missed the 5-mile run t-shirt, I still managed to snag an event shirt at the bike hill climb race on foggy Saturday morning. Snagged a medal, too, even though my bike was loaded down with work-related debris.

The fog started out in the river valley and drifted up over the base of the monument that morning.

The bike race was a timed event up the steep 1.6-mile Summit Road. You lined up by number, and one racer was released each minute.

I was told that once you get past the first tunnel, it’s not so bad. That person lied. It was my first time biking up the monument, and the road seemed never-ending. Come around a curve, thinking “this has got to be the end,” and NO! There’s MORE HILL!

While it was a rough 17 minutes, and I got passed by 3 or 4 people, I still got a lot of encouragement from the other participants. It was . . . dare I say it . . . fun!

The view at the top was lovely, especially with the fog still clinging to pockets of landscape below.

Very nice group of people. AND, despite previous policy, which I heard was implemented after a crash, we were allowed to bike back down the hill. (It would have been so much more fun had we not gotten behind a slow-moving couple of vehicles.)

More people should consider participating in the bike race. It’s totally casual, despite the hard-core-looking bikers there. Also, there are so many categories (bike type, age, gender) that your chance of getting a medal is pretty good, especially if you’re female. (Thus, how I got my second-place medal with a 17-minute time: I was one of two women in the 30-39 mountain bike division.)

Oh, and I just have to comment about this guy:

Benn Dixon. He biked up the hill on a mountain bike, for which he earned a second-place medal. Then he ran back down, and rode up again on this nifty Schwinn, nabbing a second medal — first place in the street bike category.

See? Fun!

Also fun was the Oregon Trail Days parade. I ♥ parades!

I wasn’t able to pay too much attention to the parade because I was busy taking some pictures and interviewing people, but I think as long as you got a seat in the shade, it would be a fun parade to watch.

(Note: I heard complaining that the parade has declined in quality as compared to past years. As this was my first time seeing it, I cannot comment, other than to say “if you don’t like it, fix it!” All I can say is, it surely has improved over some of the 1920s parade entries — shudder.)

Here are a few random parade pictures:

Waiting for the parade to start. The guys on the roof would have had the best seats in the house if there's been some shade up there.

Requisite politician, the gub'nah. Wonder if those were actually scout leaders, or if they were part of the undercover security detail.

Requisite marching band. Hooray, flagettes!!!

Requisite pageant queens.

Requisite candy scrum.

I liked the Rostia's parade entry. Nice and colorful. I think they were throwing candy that included chocolate, though. Not such a good choice on a 90-degree day.

Ladies doing silly dances. Fun!

The red hat ladies' float was very cute. Note the macrame harness and whisk broom tail on the ox and hula-hoop wheels on the cart.

Here was my favorite float for the parade theme of "past, present, future," submitted by a nursing home. A Harley is the wheelchair of the future? I like how these people think!

post-publication edit: in my haste, I forgot to include the art show and crafts show!

Oregon Trail Days also included a great art show in the (air conditioned!) Civic Center. I only just buzzed through quickly on my way back to work, but I wish I’d had more time to look around. There was some really great art, including a good amount of western-themed work. Maybe next year I can buy a piece for my wall.

Some of the artists were demonstrating their work onsite.

I also love attending craft fairs. I managed to miss the one in Legion Park this year. Bummer.

While Oregon Trail Days probably draws some tourists, from what I’ve gathered, this is really a hometown celebration of family and friends, much like what I’ve experienced with the Morton Pumpkin Festival, where my husband’s cousins grew up.

People who grew up in Gering, Scottsbluff, maybe even Scotts Bluff County, try to come back for the festival each year because they know it’s a good time to visit family and meet with with friends they wouldn’t otherwise see.

8/3 update

I got an email questioning the founding date I posted for Oregon Trail Days:

The school I attended does math like this:
1923 plus 89 = 2012 Hm……, where did you look it up? I am one of the only people left associated with OTD (or anyone period) that has piles and stacks of paper of research on OTD. You need to know that the celebration started in 1921 (1921 plus 89 = 2010). So, maybe your research is weak as well as your math. And, this info is very easy to find. Where did you look?

For the record: yes, I am bad at calculating dates back from an event’s Xth year. I am also bad at calculating times across time zones, so it’s a good thing I don’t have to call Australia very often.

The founding date of 1923 I got from my copy of the history book written last year by the North Platte Valley Museum. Does anyone know: was there an error in the book? I don’t want to perpetuate an incorrect date, especially since there isn’t a lot of online history of the Gering Oregon Trail Days.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

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