By Meladi Brewer
GREENVILLE — The 2022 Prairie Days opened with a bang.
In continuation of celebrating 50 years of Darke County Parks, thousands visited Shawnee Prairie on Sept. 24 and 25 for Prairie Days. Director Roger Van Frank, opened up the event by thanking everyone who had been involved with making the weekend a success.
“Welcome, to my last Prairie Days,” VanFrank said. “I’m going to retire on Dec. 31. I have 41 working days left. I bring it up because this whole event would not be possible without the great staff, great volunteers, and a great enchantment group.”
Following Van Frank’s opening remarks, the opening ceremony was concluded with the singing of the National Anthem followed by a salute from the enchantment group. Once open, those in attendance got to be transported back in time to 1780-1810 as volunteers dressed in periodic costumes and taught audience members about the life they used to live. This event is held annually the last full weekend in September and focuses on the prairie way of life.
There were featured crafts, games, and trades of the time period. Children were able to attend school, make candles, design their own pioneer hats, and make various toys. With the cool breeze blowing over the event, the sweet smell of apple butter and fresh bread baking over the fires filled the air giving the event a cozy feeling.
There was a log house and blacksmith shop open, food trucks, hay rides, and Pioneer Olympics. Dan Cain won this year’s Best Beard competition, while Joey Hall won the first ever Prairie Days Strong Man Competition. Friends of the Darke County Parks were also hosting a raffle for a few baskets and a quilt, and they are currently selling Chicken Dinner Tickets.
The Chicken Dinner will be held on Oct. 22 and tickets are being sold for $10 each. The proceeds ultimately go back to the parks to help with big projects. Tickets will be sold at Shawnee Prairie and from a Friends of the Darke County Parks member.
The stage was busy with performances both Saturday and Sunday. SilverGrass Band started things off on Saturday, playing traditional folk music. Later, Ted Yoder took the stage with his hammer dulcimer and serenaded the crowd with songs by the Beatles, Tears for Fears, and more. Yoder also played some original songs and then took requests from the audience. The Darke County Civic Theater performed a very entertaining melodrama both days. Mora & The Boys performed on Sunday afternoon and closed out Prairie Days with a bang, covering classics such as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.
Those who attended school got the chance to learn about how punishment and classroom proceedings used to take place. Boys and girls were placed into one room together, but they had to sit on opposite sides.
In reading that day, students were able to learn the letter “F” by recognizing it on the board and producing the sound, and afterwards was arithmetic where students were able to learn their multiples of five.
Spirit the Hawk turned quite the crowd by the Buckeye tree after school ended. She and her brother went into captivity at a young age and have imprinted on humans. Because they have imprinted on humans and are no longer afraid of them, they cannot be released into the wild for their own safety.
Audience members were able to learn about hawks and understand their beauty in a close-up setting. Factoids, such as, a fully grown female hawk only weighs around three and a half pounds due to their hollow bones, and if you ever see them ruffle their feathers and shake, it is because they are able to trap warm air under their feathers to ensure they do not freeze in the colder climates were told.
All in all, Prairie Days 2022 was a success helping attendees learn in a fun environment. Mark your calendars for next year because this must not miss event is one for the books.
On Sunday, visitors enjoyed horse and wagon rides. Special thanks to Pam and Terry Marker for providing the beautiful horses and wagon, and sponsors Spirit Emergency Medical Services and ProAg Services.
Darke County Parks would like to thank Dave Knapp, Countryside Gardens, GTS, Kelly Wilson, Ned Unger, Lance Leber and family, all the individuals that donated drinks and food, and all of the vendors that attended.
A massive thanks to the numerous volunteers that dedicated their weekend to make Prairie Days happen. Without such devoted volunteers, this event would not be possible. And last, but certainly not least, DCP would also like to thank to all the folks who came out and enjoyed the event, making all of their hard work so much more rewarding and worthwhile.
For more information regarding the Shawnee Prairie Preserve of the Darke County Park District visit their website at www.darkecountyparks.org or follow them on Facebook at Darke County Parks.
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected]