People have fun with Oregon Trail history


People have fun with Oregon Trail history

6:06 p.m. PDT September 19, 2015

The name of the game is The Oregon Trail. The challenge, should one choose to accept it, is to make the treacherous journey from Independence, Missouri, to the Willamette Valley just as the pioneers of the 1800s had to.

However, this time, the pioneers have to instead, make a symbolic trip around the Willamette Heritage Center, where wagons are made of craft paper, shelters include modern-day tarps, and “carrying 200 pounds of meat” equates to pulling an approximately 200-pound person in a cow costume across a stretch of the campus in a small, red wagon.

More than 100 people, young and less young, participated in the 2015 Oregon Trail Live event on Saturday.

The annual event replicates the 1990s computer game “The Oregon Trail” and it is the first and only live version of its kind.

The objective for the teams of two to five people was “to homestead in Oregon,” having completed 10 challenges along the way, in no particular order. Challenges included building a shelter in the rain and fixing a broken wagon wheel. Participants could earn additional points, depending on how well they did on differently challenges. Awards are given at the end of the event for things like the highest score and best costumes. Additionally, participants had to pay attention to the 12 trail trivia signs sprinkled throughout the land so they would be prepared when their knowledge was tested.

For instance, did you know that Samuel Peppard invented the wind wagon in 1860? His wagon made it from Kansas to Denver before a freak windstorm destroyed it. The wagon could travel up to 30 mph using two sails, according to the trail trivia sign near the Dye House.

Participants could also take part in optional activities, like petting the rabbits, chicken, turkey, goat or miniature horse.

Participants and volunteers also enjoyed seeing a full-size, covered wagon, 1860s doctor’s wagon, live music with country and folk singer LuAnn Ritts, dance hall, gambling parlor and Arm Wrestling Emporium with Taproot, Mill Creek Station Cafe, blacksmith demonstrations, farm animals and more.

They joked with the Oregon Trail sheriff and many dressed head to toe in authentic pioneer gear or other fun costumes. Some participants came complete with bonnets, long dresses, boots, aprons and sheriff hats.

This family-friendly event was meant to bring people together to have fun and learn a little something, according to Bob Reinhardt, the new executive director of the Willamette Heritage Center.

“This is a model event for the center,” he said. “It is great for all people, from families to hipsters to retirees…it covers all different categories.

“It’s fun, funky, and educational.”

Kathleen Schulte, 63, has helped coordinate the Oregon Trail Live events for four years. She serves as the education coordinator for the heritage center and she agreed with Reinhardt.

“The people who come are just hysterical,” she said, describing her favorite aspect of the event. “They are dressed up and here to have a fun time – what wouldn’t you enjoy?”

She added that it is a great community event as the center partners with many sponsors and volunteers to make sure the event is a success.

Jared and Christine Anderson brought their three children, Daphne, 8, Cyprus, 6, and Florence, 1, to the event dressed in Star Wars costumes.

Most of the McMinnville family wanted to go, but Cyprus wanted to pick the costumes. They came to a compromise on wearing the Star Wars costumes to the pioneer event and were eager to start the challenges.

Christine and Daphne geared up for the three-legged race they would compete in against Jared and Cyprus, eager to beat their male family members in some friendly, family competition.

“Inside foot, outside foot,” Christine cheered as they raced around the outhouse. The strategic fun resulted in a win for the ladies.

On the Anderson’s wagon, their mission began, “From a farm far, far away…”, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate 

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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