Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A step back into history

For Labor Day weekend in the Wood River Valley, thousands of visitors and homefolks alike will step back into history and the 19th century to momentarily forget cares of modern-day real life.

It's Wagon Days time again, a time for saloon girls, cowboys, miners, wagons, horses, old time fiddlers, a shootout with the Black Jack gang and much more.

A yen for the color and hardy ways of frontier life has transformed a largely volunteer, collaborative series of events over several days into a major tourist attraction. The Wagon Days Parade is the largest non-motorized parade in the West.

The beauty of Wagon Days is that although the theme remains basically unchanged from year to year, locals and visitors never tire of the unique collection of participants.

No parade anywhere can match the Wagon Days parade finale, the appearance of a 20-mule team pulling six, enormous, 1800s wagons that hauled thousands of pounds of ore to smelters in the Ketchum area and freight to far-flung mines.

An event of this magnitude is not possible without thousands of hours of volunteers putting their heads together and hundreds of others offering to participate. Businesses and residents owe the city of Ketchum, which shoulders the bulk of parade costs, the Chamber of Commerce, that aids in organizing the event, an enthusiastic "Thank you."

The small group of community workers that met in 1958 to find a way to showcase the huge Lewis Freight wagons have had their vision properly memorialized: Wagon Days now is a permanent and wildly popular fixture in the Wood River Valley's fine celebration of its history.

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