SCOTTSBLUFF — Thursday night brought the community together to celebrate the start of the 98th annual Oregon Trail Days with a fun family event filled with tasty food and upbeat music.

Platte Valley Bank employees helped serve barbecue and chips to participants.

“We’re trying to give back to the community — and I wanted to sweat,” said Lucretia Miles, jokingly, while putting together another sandwich.

Despite the heat, adults and children alike came together to listen to the Greendales and eat with their family and friends. Attending the Oregon Trail Days Kickoff Barbecue has become a tradition for many locals, including Laurie Schank, who brought her granddaughter Ava this year.

“She asked me, ‘Can we go this year, Nana?’ And I said, ‘I guess I can take you,’” said Schank, grinning.

Bonnie Slaymaker brought a number of her friends this year for her 11th Oregon Trail Days barbecue, including one who just returned from Spain.

“This is fellowship, seeing friends and neighbors,” she said.

For others, this is the first time they have attended such an event. A group of 10 University of Nebraska-Omaha students from Rwanda enjoyed the festivities and challenged each other to multiple games of cornhole.

“We came here on a tour of Nebraska and to see the community,” Mark Iradukunda said as he took a break from solidly defeating his peers.

There are just 11 people on the board who organized Oregon Trail Days, but putting together the oldest continuous celebration in Nebraska is a year-long process, with the first meeting for next year’s celebration happening in just four weeks. Despite the hard work, board members find it highly rewarding and well worth the effort.

“Oregon Trail Days is about bringing the region together and celebrating heritage,” board member Jodi Ruzicka said. “And we have wonderful volunteers. I don’t know what we would do without them.”

Oregon Trail Days Chairman Tracey Bentley echoed her comments.

“I love just seeing everyone and having everyone come back,” he said. “I see old friends and people I went to school with.”

Oregon Trail Days will run until Sunday, July 14. The next event will be held at 7 a.m. Friday with the Don Childs Memorial Five Mile Run. Registration begins at 6 a.m. on 10th Street. There will be a Kiddie Parade at 10 a.m. followed by games in Legion Park.

A complete schedule and list of events can be found at www.oregontraildays.com.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!