Pioneer Village a Highlight of Oregon Trail Days

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(Editor's Note: Oregon Trail Days is July 26-28 in Tenino. The Nisqually Valley News will highlight different aspects of the festival between now and July 25, when a special section focused on Oregon Trail Days will be published in the NVN.)

For close to a decade, visitors to Tenino’s Oregon Trail Days have been able to mingle with blacksmiths, candle makers, log cutters and many others demonstrating historical skills and activities.

The Pioneer Village, located next to the Tenino Depot Museum, has become a highlight of the event, and organizer Bob Hill says it has been worth the effort since he started putting it on “10 or 12 years ago.”

“I just said to myself, ‘I want to do something historic,’” he said. “I went into the middle of the park with a hunk of cedar and started inviting kids to cut shakes. Today, there are 25 different activities.”

Those activities range from crosscut sawing to pounding railroad spikes to washing clothes on a scrub board.

“It’s just about anything you can think of,” Hill said. “It takes 30 to 35 people to run it for three days.”

The Pioneer Village will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 27 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 28. Inside the museum will be a demonstration of how wooden money was made in the early 1930s.

“I think it’s the best thing going at Oregon Trail Days,” Hill said. “On Saturday, we easily have 1,000 people passing through there. It’s all hands-on and it’s all free. We really, really please families.”

The most popular activities, he added, are stone carving, cedar shake cutting, candle making, rope making and blacksmithing. Hill said it’s exciting to see young people start to understand the past as they see it before their eyes.

“I want to somehow pass history on and give them a sense of what it’s like,” he said.

New demonstrations this year will include dutch ovens and a carpenter’s adze. Some of the volunteers will be in historical garb. After working all year on the Pioneer Village, Hill said he’s excited to see it come together.

“On and off, it takes me all year,” he said. “You’ve got logs to be brought in, cedar posts and cedar shakes … I am constantly working on it. The last couple months, it’s just about every day.”

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