By Deb Fall
Darke Co. Parks
Every fall I look forward to Prairie Days, but mostly because of Pioneer Olympics. What are Prairie Olympics you ask? Well, it’s naturalist, Megan Hammaker, and my version of games and sports in the early 1800’s and it’s a blast. This September will be our third year of Olympics during Prairie Days. We change the schedule from year to year depending on the ideas we have schemed up.
Last year started with the corn shucking race. Each contestant sat on a bale of straw with seven ears of corn. After the whistle blew they shucked until their corn was completely exposed (and maybe a few worms). Last year’s winner was a young farmer. I think he may have had an advantage. I love this event, it takes me back to my childhood. I remember picking sweet corn from the garden. My five siblings and I would set on the back porch and shuck it for supper as mom prepared the boiling water.
Next game was tug-of war. Family against family tugged and laughed. This process took about three minutes but the smiles and laughter lasted much longer. Glory and pride were the prizes.
Men of all ages gathered for the beard contest. Long beards, short beards, red beards, well-groomed beards and not so well groomed. We combed the crowd and pulled in as many beards as we could find before the judging began. Everyone was a good sport as they showed off their furry faces.
Potato sack races with old-fashioned feed bags was a favorite among father with daughters and brothers with sisters. Hopping down the roped-in area, touching the tree at the other end and heading back to the starting line was the path most people took. A few went off course…we see them from time to time still hopping around the Preserve….kidding!
The sling shot competition was a bit trying to match up the 1800’s version. Megan and I didn’t want the participants to shoot rocks or musket balls so we settled on paint balls. The winner received a sling shot and a few paint balls for his pocket (Mom approved).
Following the sling shot competition was the egg toss game, then musical chairs with Johnny Appleseed serenading the children with his flute. We ended up with a few tears during this game because the competition was rough but we put it behind us and moved onto the most attended event, the pie eating contest. Pies filled with whip cream and a single piece of gum hiding inside were placed in front of each contestant. Both hands behind their back as each contestant dived face first searching for their gum. To win this event you must blow a bubble and hold it for 3 seconds. This game gets a little messy, but no worries, we had wipes on hand. The prize was an apple pie, minus the gum!
Two of my sons attended the wheelbarrow races but they were disqualified. My older son, Taylor, was pulling back on my younger son, EB’s, legs and running EB’s face into the ground. Luckily EB wasn’t hurt, but he did have grass in his teeth. If this is your plan, you will be disqualified.
Last was the strong man contest with straw bale tossing, bucket races and a battle of the minds. If you want to impress someone, this is the contest for you.
Mark this year’s Prairie Days on your calendar, September 23rd and 24th and make sure you visit Megan and Deb at Pioneer Olympics. I can’t guarantee that we will have the same events, it all depends on what Megan and I scheme up this year, but I can guarantee it will be enjoyable! Bring your lawn chair because watching is just as fun as participating!
For more information about Darke County Parks, visit www.darkecountyparks.org or call the Nature Center at 937-548-0165.