Friday, September 2, 2011

Wagon Days celebration


By CHRIS MILLSPAUGH

How many have you gone to over the years? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? It's our own particular celebration of the mining history of the Wood River Valley, with the central highlight being the Big Hitch wagons. It's a special day because it involves all the citizens, past and present, mingling with thousands of visitors. Many friends and families are reunited and many new friendships are made. There's no day like this anywhere else in the world.

It didn't used to be this way because in the early days of the festival it seemed to be an invitation for a lot of fighting and drunkenness. People brawling in the street were referred to as the real Jerk Line, but cooler heads prevailed and Wagon Days became a family event.

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The event was nonexistent from 1969 to 1975 and then, Mayor Jerry Seiffert got it started again in 1976. Thanks to Seiffert's efforts, the parade continued on. That was my first Wagon Days Parade. I had a comedy revue at that time called "The Whoop Show." We performed at The Kneadery and did spoofs on the local news and created "Nick Nite and the Whoops," a takeoff on Gladys Knight and the Pips' song hits. We entered the parade at the last moment with our float, a little red wagon. The "whoops" took turns pulling the wagon with a character named Dr. Spa inside. It was great fun.

Now, 35 years later, it's a great time to meet with the old performers and catch up on our lives. Nobody ever made it big in show business, but that era was one of the highlights of our lives. Because of the economy, all of us who survived are still working to this day.

I imagine all of you locals have great stories about this hallowed weekend and it remains in your memory some of the fun, carefree times in your lives.

I hope to see many of you out there this weekend. We're all getting tired, but we really live for the laughter.

Nice talking to you.




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