Oregon Trail Days

One Friday in the 1980s I remember dad putting an antique side-saddle on my horse. He announced that I would be riding side-saddle in the Oregon Trail Days Parade the next day. Ginger, my horse, and I were both unimpressed at this news.

This year Oregon Trail Days is celebrating 101 years. Gering was founded in 1887, and by 1921 its citizens wanted to celebrate. We call it Nebraska’s oldest continuous celebration. North Loup claims its Popcorn Days is Nebraska’s oldest continuous “festival” at 121 years. I am not clear about the difference between a celebration and a festival. Maybe it’s an opportunity for both communities to claim the oldest continuous party in Nebraska. As I was searching for Oregon Trail Days, I discovered that Tenino, Washington also has an Oregon Trail Days celebration as well.

In any event, Gering’s celebration is a chance to gather and share the best parts of our community. With parades, food, dances, cars, concerts, carnivals and all sorts of contests, there’s something for everyone to love about Oregon Trail Days. My favorite part of OT Days is the newly renamed Vera Dulaney Memorial Art Show & Sale. I look forward to the opportunity to wander through the displays and admire the art. Miss Vera was an art lover and could always be found  behind a table, calculator in hand, ready to ring up your purchases at the show.

If you want to learn about the beginnings of our fair city, the library has a book for that (actually a couple of books). “History of Gering, Nebraska: the first 100 years” was written by the Gering Centennial Committee, and published in 1989. It weighs in at 566 pages and is filled with biographies of pioneer families as well as information about early businesses, churches. It also includes a necessary part of any good book, maps.

In 2009 the North Platte Valley Museum (which is now part of the Legacy of the Plains Museum) published a book called “Images of America: Gering, Scottsbluff and Terrytown.”  This book is much shorter but filled with historical photos of people, places and events.  

Two other great places to learn about the history of our area are the Legacy of the Plains Museum and the Scotts Bluff National Monument. The LOP is always highlighting something different from their collection. The National Park Service recently remodeled their museum, so it has likely been updated since the last time you visited. Both are located just west of Gering on Old Oregon Trail Road.  

My side-saddle parade ride ended up like you might expect. I was not very confident perched sideways on my horse after an hour or so of practice. Local parade legend Charlie Horne rescued me and led my horse through the Oregon Trail Days Parade. It was embarrassing to be led through the parade, but not as embarrassing as falling off my horse during the parade would have been. 

All things considered, I recommend taking part in some of the activities during Oregon Trail Days this weekend. It’s fun for the whole family- whether you ride side-saddle in the parade or watch it from the sidewalk.

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