More than a parade, its a defugelty buster, too
The old ore wagons have captured the publics imagination
Somebodynot even Stricker knows for sure whohit on the
idea of reviving the old ore wagons that had been stored north of Ketchum for so long the
building had fallen down around them. Why not get the wagons rolling again and have a
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
No doubt, the birthday of Aunt Kate Lewis, daughter of Ketchum founding
father Horace C. Lewis is a worthy reason to celebrate Wagon Days. But ask a longtime
local, and youll find out theres more to it than that.
A "defugelty" (conflict) between the Sun Valley Co. and the city
of Ketchum, a "gambling holocaust," and the decommissioning of the Wood River
Valleys last major mineall of these, says Ed Stricker, contributed to an
economic and social doldrums half a century ago that had the bored and broke scheming for
a way to revive the withering town.
These days, Stricker, 75, lives a quiet life at his small ranch 20 miles
south of Ketchum. But in the 1950s, he was a dance hall owner.
Club 93, Stricker said during an interview last week, was the only club of
11 in Ketchum that didnt rely on gambling to survive. So it made sense that in 1954,
when the old-guard establishment in the state Legislature outlawed all gambling and the
Ketchum casinos went bust, their exiled patrons converged on Club 93.
"We wondered what the devil we could do," Stricker said of the
bar talk that developed then.
Somebodynot even Stricker knows for sure whohit on the idea of
reviving the old ore wagons that had been stored north of Ketchum for so long the building
had fallen down around them. Why not get the wagons rolling again and have a parade?
Board by board, bit by bit, the restoration work went on for years, but
still no Wagon Days took place.
Then, it hitthe "defugelty," to use Strickers
seemingly fabricated word.
The Sun Valley Co. buses that ferried skiers from Bald Mountain to the
resort had always stopped in Ketchum so tourists could shop, eat and drink. But in the
mid-1950s, Sticker said, Sun Valley buses began roaring straight through Ketchum, carrying
tourists and their dollars to Sun Valley.
To make matters worse, in 1958, Stricker said, the Triumph mine 10 miles
south of Ketchum closed. That put the locals in an even worse financial fix.
"So, boy," Stricker said, "we had to do something."
That year, the wagons were ready to roll, but still there were no horses
available to pull them. And, even if they were on hand, the 24 horses would need to be
trained to handle the six-wagon rig, controlled by a single rein.
A crew of cowpunchers, truck drivers and George Flemming, perhaps one of
the last living "jerk line" drivers at the time, worked for weeks rounding up
borrowed horses from all over the' state and training them at the Ketchum airstrip, now
the Big Wood Golf Course north of town.
"It was quite a deal getting the horses and getting them returned to
the right people with the right harnesses," Stricker said.
That first Wagon Days was a huge hit, with over a thousand people lining
the streets to see the spectacle of ore wagons, the Lewis stagecoach, mock gunfighters and
more that paid tribute to Ketchums mining heritage.
The event has continued annually since then, except for a six-year break
from 1970 to 1976 when major work on Highway 75 took place and interest in the event
Today, the parade has over 100 entries, requiring year-round preparation,
$60,000 in cash and 3,000 hours of volunteer work.
"To bring these wagons out and share our history with those who are
new to the area and to celebrate our heritage with those who have been here, to share the
storiesthats why we do it," said event organizer Wendy Jaquet.