Everybody loves a parade! But this gold-camp-turned-tourism-town seems to take it to another level, spawning a colorful cast of characters who assume the identities of western legends each July for the Days of ’76 celebration. The Days of ’76 began as way to honor Deadwood’s first pioneers. The prospectors, miners and madams who poured into the Black Hills in 1876 came to settle the gold-filled gulches of Dakota Territory.
Since the first celebration in 1924, the Days of ’76 has grown into a legendary event with a historic parade and award-winning midsized rodeo. It was so hot I couldn’t sit comfortably on the metal bench, but it was well worth my time. I sat surrounded by colorful locals and tourists as floats, wagons and horses trailed by. The parade was organized to tell visitors the story of Deadwood beginning with the Lakota Indians. The Lakota were followed by the trappers and miners, military, cowboys and pioneers.
This year’s Deadwood Days of ’76 PRCA Rodeo kicked off July 26 and concluded on Saturday – and every ride was a chance to top one of this iconic rodeo’s arena records. The PRCA, headquartered in Colorado Springs, is the highest-paying American rodeo organization. These boys ride hard and eat a lot of dust for the chance to win the $229,074 purse. The posters claimed this was “The Best Rodeo” and I can honestly say it was the best rodeo I’ve seen this year.
This nation was founded on individual spirit and small communities that keep their heritage alive. That’s what everyone at Deadwood ’76 Days was doing. We were celebrating the best of the American spirit together.
Deadwood is a National Historic place (an entire city accurately restored to its historic significance on the scale as Colonial Williamsburg) where the wild west is still alive and has been since the 1800’s. www.deadwood.com