Several hundred people will lend their talents this weekend to the annual staging of one of Wyoming’s oldest pageants celebrating life on the plains for settlers making their way west.
Lusk’s “Legend of Rawhide,” a fixture of the community since 1946, will run Friday through Saturday, featuring evening performances, dances, contests, a raffle, car show and a parade.
Jackie Bredthauer, director of the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce, estimates that half of Lusk’s residents are involved as volunteers in the pageant itself or the associated activities.
The pageant itself is held in the arena of the Niobrara County Fairgrounds, which is transformed to look a stopping point for a wagon train near Rawhide Buttes south of Lusk. Volunteers even bring in trees to stand in the arena and build a waterfall.
Actors and narrators, largely following a script written by EvaLou “Bonnie” Bonsell in 1946, act out the evening routine of a wagon crossing the plains from Missouri in the 1840s. Nearby, actors portray the activities of the residents of an American Indian village.
The main story surrounds a young pioneer who reportedly vowed to kill the first Indian he ran across in the West. His victim turned out to be a princess from the nearby village. The young man was turned over to the tribe to face justice in exchange for the wagon train being allowed to leave the area unchallenged.
The man was skinned alive, an event recreated during the pageant.
Over the years, very few changes have been made to Bonsell’s original script, Bredthauer said.
“They added some extra scenes, for instance, we have kids fishing in the fishing pond,” she said. “But the gist of the whole thing is about the same. They didn’t want to change the history of it.”
The performances begin at 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday night and are followed by a dance each night.
On Saturday, a number of events will be held through the day, including a poker tournament, corn hole tournament, parade and “closest to the pin” contest.
In addition, the “Crossroads Show and Shine” car show will be held in Lusk through the day Saturday.
A special attraction this year will be the appearance of the “Moving Wall,” a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The wall will go on display on Thursday evening and will remain in place at the Lusk High School baseball field until Sunday morning.
Money raised from the annual performance, contests and raffles is used to benefit local charities. For instance, when a flash flood destroyed property in Lusk immediately before the pageant in 2015, money was used to assist people who suffered losses, Bredthauer said.
In addition, every year money is set aside to pay for scholarships for students from Lusk.For more information on the “Legend of Rawhide,” visit the event’s website at LegendofRawhide.com.