Oregon Trail Days centennial celebration fun for all


GERING—Oregon Trail Days celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. The celebration included 25 different events including the 100th meeting of the Old Settlers and the 34th Annual Nebraska State Championship CASI Chili Cook-off.

The 100th meeting of the Old Settlers kicked off with a luncheon on July 9 at the Gering Civic Center. Jan Scripter, Vice President of the Old Settlers, has always enjoyed Oregon Trail Days. “I used to help judge the kiddie parade. ran in the Don Childs race a couple of times,” said Scripter. She said she was surprised when she was elected, and she was happy to take on the role for the year.

The meeting continued with the recognition of the officers for the year, a presentation of awards, a performance by Tabor Dance Academy, the reading of the 2019 and 1946 meeting minutes, and a memorial service for Alice Wineman. Wineman had been elected Vice President of the Half Century Club but passed away recently. 

The meeting resumed on July 10. After a quick lunch, Half Century Club President Mark Gies and Tony Kaufman, Mayor of Gering, welcomed Governor Pete Ricketts. Ricketts presented Dan Clark, Jan Scripter, Mark Gies, and the Alice Wineman Family with Admiralships in the Navy of the State of Nebraska. “Always a ton of fun to be part of a great tradition like this and it really calls back all the men and women who sacrificed so much to give us this great state,” Ricketts said. It was very, very special and an honor and a privilege to be here.”

A performance by the bell duo Truth Be Tolle, a reading of the 2019 and 1986 meeting minutes and the election of new officers concluded the meeting.

Miss Nebraska 2021 Morgan Holen, who attended the Old Settlers meeting as a guest said, “I get to meet a lot of the people who have been here for years and they’re really the foundation of this community.”

“It’s always great to be home and to see the community come together,” said Congressman Adrian Smith. Smith also had the opportunity to be a judge for the Chili Cook-off.

Bill Schlaepfer is the Chairman of the Chili Cook-off and one of his goals is to keep the traditions going. “You know, it’s one of the reasons I did it,” said Schlaepfer. “I wanted to keep it going for another 100 years. That’s why I joined. The people that kept us going are amazing and it’s very important to the valley, I think because it talks about our heritage.”

Schlaepfer said there were 62 judges for the five different categories. The categories include CASI, or red chili, bean, green chili, barbecue, under-18 red chili.

Ryan Murphy was a judge for the green chili category. Murphy has been a judge for over 10 years now and still loves doing it. “I may not see some of these people until next year, but we pick up right off where we left off. And it’s a small, unique family and really brings it all together for us.”

The Nebraska Dry Commission sponsored a cash payout for any recipe for the bean category. Lynn Reuter of the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission was a judge for this year. “Bill has been very generous and allowed several of our representatives to be judges. So, we’re probably a little more critical about beans than the average public,” said Reuter.

The Oregon Trail Days Parade theme centered around the 100th anniversary and featured unique: longhorn steers. The cattle came from Slash O Ranch Longhorns in Woodward, Oklahoma and range in age from 2 years old to 18 years old. The parade also featured a sheep herding demonstration, dignitaries, cars, agricultural equipment, and many different floats.

Reuter commented on the centennial achievement. Reuter said, “I think it’s an outstanding opportunity for the community to come together people to spend time together. And it is pretty incredible to have 100 consecutive years of any kind of a celebration.”

Murphy praised all of the volunteers, the committee members, and the City of Gering Street Department for all of the work that they do in holding this event. “A huge shout out to all the volunteers, the committee members, the city of Gering. I mean they were out at 10 o’clock clearing everything out from the street dance and getting ready for the parade. So much volunteer hours goes into making this event, Oregon Trail Days, as a whole a huge success and I don’t think these people get enough credit for all the blood sweat tears that go into it,” said Murphy.

Other events that were held as a part of the centennial celebration were the Kickoff Barbecue, the Vera Dulaney Memorial Art Show and Sale, the Don Childs Memorial Run, the Oregon Trail Days Kiddie Parade, Kids Games in the Park, the Street Vault, the Rod and Custom Car Show, the International Food Fair, the Gering City Band Concert at Five Rocks, Square Dancing, the Pancake Feed, the Bicycle Hill Climb, Mud Volleyball, a Craft Fair, a Quilt Show, a barbecue at the Legacy of the Plains Museum, a Horseshoe Tournament, the Ned LeDoux and Sawyer Brown concerts, and the Gospel Jubilee.

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