Local festivals are a great way for friends and family to catch up, so “Keeping in Touch” is a fitting theme of the 2011 Cowley Pioneer Day celebration, which takes place this Friday and Saturday, July 22-23.
Chairman Roland Simmons stressed that the Pioneer Day Committee mission statement is important to note. The statement reads: “The Pioneer Day Committee is established to promote faith in God, pioneer and family heritage, and patriotism. The annual celebration and activities we sponsor will encourage these values.”
“This explains why we do what we do and what our objectives are,” Simmons said.
He also noted that the Pioneer Day book, on sale now for $5 at the Cowley Mercantile and at Cowley Town Hall, is dedicated this year to the history of the Big Horn Academy Building. It will also be sold up and down the parade route on Saturday.
There is no Pioneer Day Pageant this year, but there are plenty of other activities to keep folks busy, Simmons said.
Pioneer Day action begins with the golf tournament Friday at Foster Gulch. Three-person teams should check in at 9 a.m., and there is a $25 entry fee plus greens fees. Sign up by calling the Foster Gulch Golf Course at 548-2445. Rod Winland is the chairman of the event.
Though missing from last week’s flyer, there will be a free ice cream social Friday evening beginning at 7 p.m. at the Cowley Town Park, Simmons said. Everyone is invited, he said, adding, “If you want to know who’s in town, go to the park, have some ice cream and mingle.”
Saturday is the busy day of the festival. It typically begins with a bang as traditional early-morning explosions are set off. The tradition goes back to early Cowley history when the pioneers celebrated Independence Day by firing a cannon and later by exploding dynamite.
“Hoosty Cook did it with dynamite,” Simmons said, “in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He had to move it back when he rattled Fern Taggart’s china out of her china cabinet.
“I’ve always woken up with dynamite on Pioneer Day as long as I can remember, though it’s not dynamite anymore (now fireworks).”
Simmons pointed out that the Cowley and Burlington Pioneer Day celebrations are the longest-running town celebrations in the area. He said Pioneer Day used to rotate among Lovell, Cowley and Byron and was first held in 1900 by the pioneers. Cowley celebrated both Pioneer Day and the Fourth of July, he said.
Events begin Saturday with the Pioneer Day Fun Run and Bike Races, which start at 7 a.m. in front of Town Hall. Registration begins at 6:30. Featured will be 5K and one-mile runs, as well as 5K and Cannery Road bike races. Wheelchair racers are welcome, and helmets are required for any bicycle racers.
There is a $10 entry fee. Call Schuyler Hinckley for more information at 548-2823.
Next on the schedule is the Kiddie Parade at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Pioneer Day Parade at 10 a.m. Kids should line up in front of Town Hall at 9:15 and wear a costume. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Each participating child will receive a Sacajawea dollar, Simmons said.
Lineup for the main parade begins at 9 a.m. on the road in west Cowley that runs by the city shops to the rodeo grounds. To enter call Janeen Blackburn at 548-6186 or Casey Crosby at 272-3346.
Next up is the Pioneer Heritage Program at the Cowley LDS Church at 11 a.m. Each year’s program is dedicated to the pioneers, Simmons said.
The annual barbecue lunch in the park and kids games will begin at noon. The barbecue is sponsored by the area Senior League baseball teams – Babe Ruth and American Legion – as a fundraiser.
“This is another great venue for people to meet,” Simmons said.
Darece Grant is in charge of the kids games, Simmons said, and there is also a volleyball tournament in the park organized by Carol McMillin (548-7367) and a classic car show north of the park. Call Rick Grandalen at 548-6757.
The Pioneer Day Rodeo begins at 2 p.m., and entries are being accepted through Thursday at 664-2235.
The grand re-opening of the former Big Horn Academy/Cowley High School building – now the School District No.1 administration offices – is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m., when patrons will be able to tour the historic and newly-remodeled building.
“They did a beautiful job (on the remodeling),” Simmons said, adding that the Cowley Museum on the second floor of the nearby town hall will be open Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 12 to 6 p.m.
The Pioneer Day Trap Shoot will begin at 5 p.m., Simmons said, at the Lovell Shooting Range northeast of Lovell. Call Suzanne Wilson at 548-6397 for more information.
Horseshoe pitching will begin at 6 p.m. at the park. For more information call ElRay Bridges at 548-9661 or Keith Berry at 272-0550.
Capping the celebration will be three evening/night events:
• The Night Program begins at 7 p.m., featuring Sylvia Gams and Lynne Strom as MCs. The event has been moved to the Rocky Mountain Elementary School gym/multi-purpose room this year.
• The adult dance and mingle runs from 9 to 11 p.m. at the park, with the Rewinders providing music.
• The Ultimate Teen Night will take place at the Senior Baseball Field from 9 p.m. to midnight. The event is sponsored by the Cowley Recreation District. There is a $5 fee to join the activities.
By David Peck