BAYARD — For the past 30 years, the people of Bayard have set aside a weekend in early fall to celebrate their heritage and to honor those who have made a difference for their community. Sept. 7-8 was the weekend for Chimney Rock Pioneer Days.
It all started Saturday with a big parade down Main Street, featuring Marilyn Wimmer and Don Burry, the event’s queen and king. Also there were a number of church groups, the Bayard High School Drill Team, local businesses, horse groups, emergency response vehicles, classic cars and State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, driving his antique John Deere tractor.
After the parade wrapped up, a large crowd descended on Library Park for food vendors, live entertainment, a horseshoe tournament, a bounce house and water slide for the kids and a lot more.
Lisa Ouderkirk has been one of the event organizers for the past 14 years.
“We really don’t have titles,” she said. “Seven of us just consider ourselves the Pioneer Days Committee.”
Ouderkirk said that while she enjoys the entire weekend event, she especially likes the parade.
“We usually have between 50 and 75 entries and they can actually throw out candy,” she said. “It’s a real slice of small town life.”
In addition to Bayard groups and businesses, the parade draws entrants from the Scottsbluff-Gering and Bridgeport areas. Making an appearance on Saturday was the Scottsbluff High School Drill Team.
“Everything is free for the weekend,” Ouderkirk said. “It’s a family-oriented event that will appeal to both adults and kids.”
For the past 25 years, the Chimney Rock Visitor Center has joined in the celebration, sharing stories of the historic landmark that’s shown up in many an emigrant diary as they headed west on the Old Oregon Trail.
“We’re free both days over the weekend, so you can’t beat the price,” said site supervisor Loren Pospisil. “On Sunday at 1 p.m. drone enthusiast Wyatt Harrington will speak on drone safety and how they can be used.”
Another presentation at 1:30 Sunday afternoon will include stories about the 37 states that have a Chimney Rock.
From 2-4 p.m., Author Cody Assmann will be demonstrating some of the tricks of the fur trade used by mountain men.
During an indoor program at 2:30, a presenter will discuss Indians and emigrants and how they affected America’s westward expansion.
“Talking about our past is important,” Pospisil said. “Sometimes we forget life skills in today’s modern world. History should be more than just facts and dates of famous people. It should also teach us how to survive. By relearning some of those skills, I think we’ll be better rounded people.”