Time travel. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience different periods of history? Aside from what we have learned from Marty McFly in Back to the Future, we still wonder what it would be like to go back 50 or even 100 years. Well, hold your horses – pun intended! Since time travel isn’t possible, let’s shoot for the next best thing. The Annual Wagon Days Celebration in Sun Valley, Idaho is a step back in time to 19th century living in the Wood River Valley.
In the late 1880’s, this part of the country was considered the wild, wild, west. The Wood River Valley was made up of well-populated mining towns, but the terrain was unbelievably tricky, the winters were harsh, and the living even more so. Sure. There were newspapers, restaurants, schools and everything a town might need but, getting in and out of the area was not for the faint of heart. Before the Union Pacific Railroad laid tracks, the ORE WAGONS, also known as the BIG HITCH, were the only connection folks living in the Wood River Valley had with the outside world. It was responsible for carrying in supplies while carrying out mined goods. The fact is the wagons ability to get over the mountains was vital to survival.
But, wait! Let’s not put the cart before the horse! How did Wagon Days get started? The answer is easy.
In 1958, some townsfolk were at the one and only Casino on Main Street in Ketchum. They wanted to honor the wishes of the LEWIS Family to display the ORE WAGONS once a year. After a few whiskeys and a few hands of cards, the idea of a parade was born and sounded pretty good.
Here is what we know.
Costumes are encouraged but not required. Don’t be shy! There will be adults dressed as gun-slinging cowboys, old-time miners and local trappers. There will be white-hatted sheriffs and black-hatted villains. There will be showgirls, mountain scouts, Indians and people simply dressed in pioneer garb. You’ll catch a glimpse of folks on horseback riding up and down Main Street. It is a memorable cultural and historical experience unlike any other. Now that the mood is set, let’s talk about some of the event highlights.
Friday Night of Wagon Days weekend in Ketchum kicks off with a dose of Cowboy Poetry, old west musicians meandering through town, a Grand Marshall’s Reception, and an old-fashioned Barn Dance at the Ore Wagon Museum. With all the festivities in and around town, you’ll be tempted to stay out until the cows come home. But, don’t. There is much to do in the morning.
Saturday starts early with an all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast. Sponsored by the local, non-profit Papoose Club, pancakes are served up in Ketchum Town Square starting at 8 AM. If you are a late riser, you can get a belly full until about noon. If Saturday doesn’t fit your schedule, don’t worry. The Pancake Breakfast is also on Sunday. Heading up to Festival Field, next to the Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, you’ll see traditional performances by The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes as well as the magic and beauty of The EhCapa Bareback Riders. At 1 pm, the infamous BIG HITCH PARADE starts down Sun Valley Road towards Main Street where it turns north.
The largest non-motorized parade in the west – yes, you read that correctly, the BIG HITCH PARADE includes over 100 authentic buggies, carriages, tacks, carts, buckboards, stagecoaches, and horses drawn wagons. There are local and regional marching bands. There are politicians waving and balloons flying. There are ladies on horseback carrying full glasses of champagne so, look out for spills! Watch in awe and wonder as the original BIG HITCH thunders its way west and then makes an impressive turn onto main street to head north. Pulled by a 16-team draft mule jerk line, the BIG HITCH brings up the rear of the parade. While standing in awe, imagine how the drivers of this massive rig were able to get in and out of Hailey and Ketchum to as far north as Galena and Stanley. You’ll have a new appreciation for days gone by and our rich history.
Wait – Horses? Yes. There are Morgans, Arabians, and Pasos. And, it does get messy. But never fear – our local Sun Valley Sun hockey players will be wearing their inline skates and carrying their shovels to pick up what is left behind.
After the parade, the town is alive and well with a Post-Parade Street Party. There is food, drink, music, rides, bouncy houses, and a dunking booth. Grab a hot dog, a cold beer, or lemonade. Take a moment and visit all the open businesses offering their version of Wagon Days’ hospitality. You will be glad you did.
Just when you thought your Sun Valley Idaho vacation couldn’t get any better, it does with Wagon Days. There is no question that this is the town’s biggest cultural and historic event celebrating the old west. To coin a famous and well-known local slogan,” Welcome to Yesteryear”. By being a part of Ketchum’s Annual WAGON DAYS CELEBRATION, you and your family will experience what life in the late 1800’s. We know. It’s incredible. By the way…Who said time travel doesn’t exist?
For the Full Schedule of Events for Wagon Days Weekend – Click Here