On May 24, 1902, the Sheridan Enterprise announced that the citizens of Sheridan were in for a big treat.
A grand three day Mid-Summer Carnival was being planned to “fittingly observe” the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.
The citizens’ executive committee, consisting of Dr. Frackleton, W. H. Edleman and Herbert A. Coffeen (all prominent in the history of Sheridan) were in charge of appointing sub-committees and deciding on “features and specialties.”
Everyone set to work to secure donations to finance the grand event. The newspaper ran ads that solicited funds and businesses, especially, were asked to help out because the surge in the community population (estimated to be in the thousands) would benefit them most. The committee produced “canary colored” stationery and envelopes for businesses to use in advertising the event. Businesses took appropriate advantage of the situation and multiple stores had mid-summer carnival sales. Multiple vendors signed up to feed the masses and display their wares.
In the end, all the planning committee’s efforts worked and the whole affair was adjudged a huge success. The capstone was a re-enactment of the Custer Massacre. In the sham battle three companies of cavalry and mounted Indians realistically presented “…the horrible butchery of 26 years ago in all its details.” It was, reported by one journalist that “all was presented so true to life that the illusion was not dispelled until the bugle notes revived the inanimate forms that covered the sloping hill. It was a great scene and never to be forgotten.”
Sheridan teemed with activity. A mile long parade, which convened at the Sheridan Inn, wound along the parade route. It was led by a famous Iowa band, which arrived on an excursion train from Iowa, followed by an Indian band from St. Xavier mission comprised of “19 gentlemanly little fellows in years from 8 to 15.” Mounted Indian braves rode with Medicine Crow who carried the American flag. Streaming behind were multitudes of Indian squaws, old men and papooses “in gaily beaded attire”, a typical stage coach of earlier days and mounted cowboys. This was followed by much more, including “citizens in decorated rigs.” At the close of the parade an Indian war dance was held on Main Street.
The three days were interspersed with races galore including Indian pony races ran on Main Street from the Towns Hotel to the Cady Opera House. A pony relay riding event, to commerate the pony Express that carried the mail in earlier days, also featured a mock attempted hold up of the rider by a band of Indians in close pursuit. It was judged to be “realistic and exciting.” All the races didn’t involve horses. Foot races between Indians and soldiers were popular as well as bicycle races.
The celebration seemed to have something for everyone. One evening featured a “flower and bicycle parade by electric light.” There were also open air concerts on Main Street performed by the parade bands. Throughout it all, at various times, the crowds thrilled to broncho (sic) busting contests. Baseball games were well attended too, when Sheridan played Buffalo and Buffalo played Dietz. Games were played on the ball field near the train depot and new seating was organized for the games.
It is interesting that before the carnival “The Great Royal Circus” had advertised in the local newspaper that it would be present and feature the “Bengal Menagerie and London Hippodrome.” The circus purported to contain 50 cages of rare wild animals that cost $1,000,000 to capture, 10 bands, 40 clowns and 100 Shetland ponies. The advertisement also contained the caveat that the circus would appear “unless the railroads are unable to carry the stupendous aggregation of all that is great in the world of shows.” Since the “The Great Royal Circus” was never mentioned again in event media coverage it is assumed that the railroad was unable to carry the “stupendous aggregation.” Either that or the whole thing was a hoax.
The Mid-Summer carnival certainly made sure that the “fourth was fittingly observed.” Dr. Frackleton and his committee were given due credit “…for making sure such a stupendous success as was met with during the week just closed.”
It’s truly amazing from reading the accounts just how “stupendous” everything seemed to be in those days. It must have been the popular word of the time.
Tom Ringley was re-elected as a county commissioner in 2012. He is the author of four books. Ringley grew up in Sheridan and returned home in 1990 after 27 years as an Air Force officer. He has been involved with the local hospital foundation, the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo and has been the facilities director at the county fairgrounds.