Once growth mania overtakes a town, a community's heritage too often gets
lost in the rush to ditch the old and embrace the new. The consequence is that a town
loses its soul and memories of its rich past.
Not so for Ketchum, where many folks with a reverent eye for the beauty of
the past diligently guard irreplaceable remnants of the town's colorful history as a
boom-to-bust mining and smelter center.
The most colorful reminder of Ketchum's heritage is Wagon Days, an annual
weekend of events staged to preserve and promote history from one generation to another.
Without minimizing other activities, the crown jewel of this celebration
is Saturday's Wagon Days parade.
And for those who've yet to see the paradeand even those who see it
year after yearthere's that moment when gasps of utter amazement go up from
thousands lining the route as the "Big Hitch" comes into view as the finale to
the 100 or so units passing in review.
Six huge ore wagons more than 100 years old, pulled by a team of 12
mammoth Percheron horses, is a sight of breathtaking proportions as the Big Hitch rounds
the Main Street and Sun Valley Road corner while brakemen control the huge train.
There's another story, however, that needs to be told about this year's
paradethe story of a few who've pitched in throughout the entire year to bring
together so many horse-drawn units, bands and colorful participants to make Wagon Days the
West's largest non-motorized parade on a budget of just $60,000.
Two volunteers who've fitted in Wagon Days between their other
considerable professional duties for 22 yearsstate Rep. Wendy Jaquet and Dr. Max
Thompsonhave decided this is their last year. So, too, has a colleague of theirs,
Diane Cordes, who signed on as a volunteer 17 years ago.
This time next year, the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce will be
running the show.
The achievements of Rep. Jaquet, Dr. Thompson and Ms. Cordes are
formidablerecruiting marching units, finding horses to pull colorful and historical
rigs, and inspiring other volunteers to pitch in (not the least of which is Ivan Swaner's
Main Street popular cowboy "shootout") to create a weekend of unforgettable
memories for thousands of spectators and participants.
But beyond the marching units and the spectator attendance there always
was a larger vision and a goal in mind.
It was to create an enduring event giving Ketchum a sense of pride in its
past, and an annual reminder to every generation that modern Ketchum is built on a
foundation of sacrifice and hardship by pioneers with dreams.