SHERIDAN — With the holiday just two weeks away, the town of Ranchester has solidified plans to host an afternoon of family-friendly fun this Fourth of July.
Events in Connor Park begin at 2 p.m. July 4 with family games, food and a bounce house for the children from 2-6 p.m. Live music from The Two Tracks will be featured from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
“It’s a casual, family, easy-going day,” deputy clerk Kathie Stevens told The Sheridan Press. “People come and hang out in the park. We don’t have a big, established schedule.”
The park hosts visitors from all over, as it serves as a state park and campground at the base of the Bighorns. The town welcomes guests, especially for the wife-carrying contest.
“(The town of Ranchester) never heard of (the wife-carrying contest) either until our mayor and his family had done it on the West Coast,” Stevens said.
The mayor and his family had so much fun doing it there, they decided to integrate the event into the Fourth of July festivities. The event is registered with North American Wife Carrying, which hosts a championship event each year. Those wishing to participate in Ranchester must be at least 21 years old and pay $25 per couple. Registration begins at 2 p.m. with the event beginning at 3 p.m.
“Last year we had a couple visiting that went to win second place in the national competition,” Stevens said.
Kirsten and Jake Barney earned that second-place finish. The couple, out of Lexington, Virginia, won as Team Blue Ridge. Wife carrying is based on 19th century Finnish legend “Ronkainen the Robber,” who had high qualifications for the men he accepted into his band, according to Sunday River’s website, the location for the North American Wife Carrying Championship. To prove their worth, the website continues, men had to compete through a difficult course with a heavy sack (or woman grabbed from neighboring villages) on their back.
“It’s really fun to watch,” Stevens said. “It’s a short course.”
First-place finishers earn $250, followed by $150 for second place and $100 for third.
Food vendors and a beer park will accompany afternoon activities, with the annual tradition of fireworks capping off the day. The Tongue River Fire Protection District will set up next to the town of Ranchester’s fireworks location for safety.
Before fireworks and The Two Tracks, Ranchester will host another annual tradition starting at 5 p.m. — boat races. Those interested may register a little wooden sailboat for $5, with cash prizes awarded to the top three boats.