BAYARD — An event at Chimney Rock will give people a chance to celebrate history and check out the Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center before it closes for renovations until next spring.
“Music on the Trails” is free to the public and will take place on Oct. 19 at the Chimney Rock Visitor Center from 3-6 p.m. It will feature an interpretive program called “From Wagons to Wagons,” presented by Jerry Lucas, a volunteer at Scotts Bluff National Monument.
The program centers around the Studebaker family, who is best known for their automobiles but there’s much more to the Studebaker name than cars.
Their story begins in 18th century Germany, where generations of the family worked as blade makers, according to the Studebaker Family National Association.
During the presentation, Lucas will talk about the family’s journey to Pennsylvania and eventually to Indiana.
During their time in Pennsylvania, Native Americans who were allied with the French attacked Heinrich Studebaker’s farm, killing him and taking his wife and children prisoner.
Eventually, his wife and unborn baby were killed and other family members fled from the area. Many of those family members went into blacksmithing and wagon making, according to the Association.
They developed a reputation for a design that would become famous: The Conestoga Wagon.
The Studebaker Wagon Corporation became so well-known for its durable wagons that the Union Army contracted with the company to build wagons during the Civil War.
In 1902, the company moved on to automobiles and continued to cement its place in history.
“Oftentimes, we think of history as a single subject, when in fact, it’s the compilation of so many histories that make up the story of Scotts Bluff,” said Kayla Gasker, centennial coordinator at the Scotts Bluff National Monument. “In the Studebaker family story, it’s more than just them making wagons; it is their struggle to invent and reinvent themselves. The Studebaker story not only tells of pioneer history, but also American ingenuity.”
After the program, musicians from the Village Players and Friends will provide authentic pioneer music and refreshments will be served.
“While there wasn’t much down time for emigrants, wagon companies would partake in the camaraderie of music and singing while stopped for the evenings,” said Gasker. “They may have packed a harmonica or violin in their Studebaker wagon to entertain fellow emigrants on the lonely journey west.”
Children will be able to create a make-and-take harmonica and wind flute. They are also encouraged to explore the hands-on exhibits including the “pack your wagon” activity in the visitor center.
The center will close in November to undergo a renovation project that has an estimated cost of nearly $1.8 million. The expansion is expected to be completed next spring, with a tentative grand-opening date set for May.
“The Music on the Trails event will be a great opportunity for the community to see the exhibits and existing building before the renovation,” said Gasker.