Diane Boit: Trail West pageant begins, 1959
10 Years Ago – 1999
Ken Ciavarella, longtime Mandan Junior High teacher, is the grand marshal for this year’s Mandan Jaycees Fourth of July Parade. The Mandan native began teaching at the Lewis and Clark Job Corps in Bismarck, then at Flasher High School for three years, before beginning at MJHS in 1970. Ciavarella retired this year, after 29 years in education. He was chosen as an Outstanding Young Educator in 1979 by the Mandan Jaycees, and in 1974 was selected as an Outstanding Elementary Teacher of America.
The 1999 parade theme is “Round-up of the Century,” which was picked in honor of the upcoming millennium. For more than 40 years, Mandan’s Main Street has been closed to make way for the Jaycees’ Fourth of July parade, which travels three miles across town, with more than 30,000 spectators lining the parade route.
This year’s Jaycees’ rodeo was a great pay-off for a few Morton County cowboys. Mandan bull rider Shawn Brink took first place, winning $1,221 and a trophy pistol, with a score of 81. Lance Rossow took the $617 third place prize for roping a calf in 11.15 seconds. And bareback rider Sheldon Geiger, of Mandan, took home a fourth place finish and $260 with a score of 74.
25 Years Ago – 1984
Mandan High School FFA members returned from the State FFA Convention in Fargo with two State Championship Teams. Out of 64 schools, Mandan was awarded the Gold Livestock Judging Team, whose members are: Kenny Graner, son of Eugene and Marie Graner; GayLynn Madler, daughter of Elmer and Elvina Madler; and Brad Tokach, son of Dick and Theresa Tokach. The team’s coaches were Richard C. Tokach and Dwight Keller.
Also receiving Gold honors were the Dairy Cattle Judging Team of David and Marvin Stastny, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Stastny, and Nathan Boehm, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Boehm.
In the individual competition, Brad Tokach topped 190 other participants for the “High Individual” in the state. Donna Keidel was also named the state winner in the National Computer in Agriculture Program, which is designed to award students who have developed computer programs for agricultural use. According to Mandan’s FFA advisor Al Liebersbach, “This is the most gold team and gold individuals ever won for MHS.”
50 Years Ago – 1959
After two weeks of cold, rainy and windy weather, Mother Nature provided a perfect night with a canopy of stars in a cloudless sky for the opening performance of the Trail West pageant on July 1. Then, as the second act ended, the appearance of the Northern Lights formed another breathtaking backdrop for the audience.
As “Taps” sounded the close of the show and the mounted Seventh Cavalry rode out of the fort’s big gate, congratulations were showered upon the director and the board members of the Mandan Historical Development Ass’n, who were standing at the exits. The pageant runs five days each week until Sept. 6.
* * * * * * * *
Trail West depicts the lives of the men of the Seventh Cavalry and their families under the command of General George Armstrong Custer prior to the battle of the Little Big Horn in June of 1876. The three-hour production was written by W. T. Chichester and Dr. Frederick Walsh of the Speech and Drama Department of the North Dakota State College. There are 90 people in the cast, with 70 speaking parts.
Plans for the pageant began in 1958, following the opening of the “Old Four Eyes” musical at Medora, which was also directed by Dr. Walsh. Construction of the 2,000-seat, concrete amphitheatre and stage settings began at Fort Lincoln State Park in May. Supercrete blocks, all manufactured at the Mandan factory, were also used in the ticket office, the concession stand, the modern restrooms and in the flat slabs for the aisles and walkways.
The outdoor theater also includes a stockade with parapets and block houses, which form the background for the spacious stage. The two block houses at the front of the stage serve a dual purpose. The organist is located in one of these, while the other houses the historian who narrates between the episodes. Both buildings also serve as dressing rooms.
75 Years Ago – 1934
Cries of barkers and the rattle of spinning wheels of fortune mingled with the aroma of hamburgers as Mandan celebrated the nation’s birthday at the second annual old fashioned community “get-together” sponsored by St. Joseph parish societies. More than a thousand people, city residents and country folk ambled about the fairgrounds, enjoying the day’s events.
A giant parade of floats from Mandan businesses, along with the Boy Scouts, parish societies, school children and city groups, opened the Independence Day activities. The procession left St. Joseph’s church on Collins Avenue at 10 a.m. and then traveled west down the flag-decorated Main Street to the fairgrounds. Included in the parade were 40 floats and groups and a fleet of decorated bicycles, plus two bands, Mike Bauer’s Night Hawk Orchestra and the local Little German Band. An engine and a passenger coach float, fashioned about an auto chassis by NP employees, captured the first prize for the best individual float.
The afternoon program featured a boxing exhibition sponsored by John Herner. Three bouts matched Joseph and Edward Eckroth, then Eddie Steckler against Irvin Steckler, and Leo Boehm against Leo Knoll. Knoll captured the last bout, while the first two matches were draws.
And finally, before the fireworks display began, a large crowd gathered to watch a town team and an Irish team defeat the country and German teams in a pair of uproarious tugs-of-war. Especially “hot” was the second event matching the Irish against the Germans.
100 Years Ago – 1909
“The Fourth was a Hummer!”
“The Glorious Fourth was just as glorious in Mandan as all over this land of ours. In many of the adjoining towns, the celebration was scheduled for Saturday, the 3rd. This was true in Flasher, Hebron, Odense and New Salem. Those in charge were probably anxious to have the ‘doins’ over with so that opportunity might be had to visit the Big Show at Mandan, the metropolis of the West Slope country.
“The festivities of the day were ushered in by a parade to the fairgrounds at about 10 o’clock where the Honorable J. E. Campbell delivered a patriotic speech. The chief feature of the morning was the ballgame between Mandan and Glen Ullin which resulted in a victory for Mandan, 8 to 7.
“In the afternoon, an immense crowd of about 5,000 people were at the fairgrounds to witness the two balloon ascensions. Although thrilling, the ascensions were criticized by many, probably for the reason that nobody got killed. The balloons were old and patched and looked like the seat of a school boy’s pants. And, there were many suspicions that Prof. Spaghetti, the balloonist, was not the noted Italian aeronaut that he palmed himself off as being, but that his name was really O’Brien and that his father was a New York policeman. Anyway, it was a dare devil performance with a chance of coming down to earth in a mass of jelly, and that’s where the excitement comes in. To those who did the criticizing of the balloonist’s performance, we advise them to go and try it themselves.
“The day’s events ended with the annual pulling contest of the Farmers vs. the Railroad Men. However, it was a fizzle as the rope broke when the RR men were getting the best of it.
“One of the most magnificent displays of fireworks ever shown in this section of the country was shown on Monday night through the generosity of some of the businessmen of the city. The outdoor bowery dance started right after and from the look of satisfaction manifested, it was a grand success.”