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Annual Days of ’76 Parade a Part of Deadwood’s Past

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DEADWOOD - Parades are something of a glimpse into the past, when families crowded on street-sides to watch processions of grand proportions waltz by. History is a lesson in itself, and one parade that started some 90 years ago in a northern Black Hills community continues to draw thousands of spectators each July. The Days of ’76 Parade, along with its Rodeo, has become one of the largest event of its kind in the Black Hills.  
Millions of visitors have walked the streets of Historic Deadwood since the first Days of ’76 events 87 years ago. In 2009, thousands of visitors will see many of the same historic horse-drawn vehicles that have delighted crowds for all these years.
The 2009 Days of ’76 Parade will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 24; and again at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 25. The parades march up Historic Main Street in Deadwood. The Parade heads south on Deadwood’s Main Street, and ends at Wells Fargo Bank before circling back to the rodeo grounds. More than 100 entries, including buggies, wagons, bands, cavalry units and outriders, participate annually. The 87th annual Days of ’76 Rodeo events take place July 21-25.
“The Days of ’76 Parade, with so much history and entertainment, continues to be a top event in Deadwood,” said Ron Burns, Days of ’76 committee chair. “The Days has one of the largest authentic carriage collections in the nation. This parade is so unique because so much of it is horse-powered, and you’re not going to see that anywhere else.”
The historic Parade is a reenactment of the history of the region, from the Louisiana Purchase through the early fur traders and gold miners; including wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and American Indians, ending with modern service groups, bands, cowboys and cowgirls. The Parade, which stretches as far as 3 miles, moves on foot, horseback and in the greatest collection of early horse-drawn vehicles in the West.
“The Parade is a great story, not just of Deadwood, but of the Midwest as a whole,” said Mac Meyer, Days of ’76 Chairman. “ I don’t know of many historic parades left in the country, but the Days Parade continues to grow stronger and stronger. And we are proud to keep the history and heritage alive.”
Hundreds of volunteers provide horses and dress in historic attire for the parade. Costumed characters will represent some of the area’s most legendary citizens, including Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Preacher Smith, Poker Alice Tubbs, Deadwood Dick and Seth Bullock, while others depict the anonymous Pony Express riders, doctors, storekeepers, saloon girls and outlaws who were lured to Deadwood by gold in the 1870s.
Burns is astonished that hundreds of people coming to participate and watch the parade actually wagon train to Deadwood from areas outside the Black Hills.
“It really is amazing that so many people actually plan their vacation around the Days of ’76 celebration each year. That says something about our event, when people take a week or two off of work just to participate. And we are very grateful for everyone coming to take part,” Burns said.
Longtime St. Onge resident Julia Kinghorn is the 2009 Days of ’76 Parade Grand Marshall. The Days of ’76 Rodeo has won the PRCA Medium Rodeo of the Year each year since 2004.
Visit or call 1-800-999-1876 for more information on Days events, or for information on Historic Deadwood. For rodeo tickets and lodging, call 1-800-838-BULL (2855) or (605) 578-7702.