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Monday, July 16, 2012

Pioneer Day

          The high point of summer each year of my childhood and youth was July 24th. It would begin with a bang and end with a rodeo with lots of fun stuff in between. I remember being awakened by the cannon shot announcing the Hinckley Lions Club breakfast, which was followed by the parade down Main Street. The parade often had many of the same entries of  Delta's 4th of July parade with one notable addition--the Miss Hinckley float, carrying the queen of the day and her two attendants. The parade ranked second only to Halloween in the amount of candy the town's children would haul away in bags. When I was young, the last parade entry going past meant, 'make your way to the church for the choir's annual Patriotic Program'.
            The Hinckley Ward Choir started practicing for the Patriotic Program immediately following their Christmas Cantata each December. I don't know if Cluff and Ruth Talbot were the originators of this long-standing tradition, but at least two generations of Talbots kept the program going all the years my family lived in the area. The chapel and overflow area of the original Hinckley church building would be packed beyond capacity with townspeople and out-of-towners coming to be uplifted by singing and speaking. For a couple of years, I was a member of the choir and had a prime, padded spot at the front from which to enjoy line up, but other years I remember trying to find a seat. The last time I attended that program, I sat in the balcony where I enjoyed the performance below and nearly felt the roof lifting from the building by the passionate presentation honoring pioneer ancestors.
            Immediately following the program, the barbecue lunch started. In those days when Ward Relief Societies were required to raise operating funds, this lunch greatly bolstered the budget of the Hinckley Sisters. It seems they offered either chicken or beef as the main entree with potato salad, baked beans, and a roll as the standard fare, with cake or pie offered as desert. People would sit on blankets or folding chairs all around the large shaded and grassy area of the church grounds enjoying their lunch and each other's company.
            During the 1970s and 80s there was a break between the church lunch and the Hootenanny in the early evening. More recently, activities and games in the park and presentation of awards for the 5K fills time after the parade. During a few years of my childhood before the park was completed, I recall a large flatbed trailer was pulled to the shady yard of the Manis Family on north Main Street. The Hootenanny would include banjo picking, piano playing, singing, dancing, and other engaging routines.
            The day would culminate with the Hinckley Rodeo. Each night started with pretty girls on horses as the Hinckley Rodeo Queen and her attendants began the procession of participants. Bull riders and steer wrestlers; bareback and saddle bronc riders; barrel racers and hide pullers; calf ropers and mutton busters were among the entertainers each night of the rodeo. My favorite part of the evening was the comedy duo of rodeo clown and announcer who would fill the gaps between events with stunts and jokes. The night air was filled with cooking smells of hamburgers and popping corn, the scent of assorted animals and dust raised by  their pounding hooves, the boom of the announcer's voice over the loud speakers, adrenaline of the contestants, and pure excitement of the crowd gathered on the bleachers.
            I was brought up believing there was no better way to pay tribute to stoic pioneers than early-morning pancakes in the park, candy thrown from floats on Main Street, barbecued meats and baked beans on paper plates, and cowboys riding bucking animals using only one hand to hold on. Happy Pioneer Day, everyone!


Tina said...

I surely do miss our small town celebrations! July 24th was BIGGER than the 4th of July . . . . fun times!

wendy said...

Such sweet memories. Home Town rodeos I find the Best.
We go to several around here, where you kinda get the dirt in your teeth.
Yup..a part of it all.
the parades
the food
all of it