|The Good Life: We have much to be grateful for|
|July 21, 2011 Lisa Betz|
Every year the Panhandle community comes together to celebrate our shared heritage at Oregon Trail Days. Now in its 90th year, Gering’s Oregon Trail Days is the oldest festival of its kind in the State of Nebraska. Now that is something to be proud of.
I wonder about those Old Settlers who have passed on from this earth. Do they join us each year and smile upon us as we honor our roots, the ones they planted here, that sprouted in their lifetime and thrived with the tending of generations that followed?
Every year on the Gering Citizen Facebook page, I put up photos of the OTD events. It is a big undertaking to do but each year many former residents thank us for making it possible for them to be at Oregon Trail Days in spirit, even though they couldn’t make it home this time.
What astounds me most about the interactions we see on our Facebook page are the complaints, the criticisms and the fault-finding. Somebody thought it was sad that Miss America received more applause than the National Guard. Somebody else was angry that the Color Guard presenting the American flag didn’t stop and fire their guns in salute.
What is it about people today that finding something good to say, something joyful and grateful and positive to say is so difficult? Why do we expect everything to be perfect?
I don’t have an answer but I will say that when Miss America Teresa Scanlan rode by on her float looking beautiful, I felt hopeful and grateful and a feeling of pride swelled in my heart. This young woman has done so much to represent our corner of the world in such a positive way. God bless her in the pursuit her dreams. She also holds ours.
When the flag went by and I saw the Scottsbluff Firefighters Local 1454 Honor Guard looking crisp in their Class A dress uniforms, I felt a lump in my throat. I felt pride and joy in our community.
When the Old Settlers president, Don Parmenter went by and waved to me, I thought of my dear grandfather, Cleo Gering, who loved this place with such a heart full of pride. I thought of my great-grandmother Pansy Gering, who was the loveliest soul I ever knew, who had once been honored as a vice president of the Old Settler’s Club.
These are the experiences that Oregon Trail Days is all about. It is a time for us to feel connections to our roots and those ancestors who built this community out of nothing, with very little to start with.
It doesn’t even matter when your ancestors landed here or even if you are the first of your line to join us in this great creative project that is the Valley. We are all building together.
We have so much to be thankful for and proud of here. While things are never perfect, life is so much better when we focus on the good things and honor the efforts made by everyone around us who contributes to our beloved Valley.
Thank you to the committee members of Oregon Trail Days: Chuck Cowan, Bill Schlaepfer, Vera Dulaney, Mike Minzey, Gail Ellison, Bill Peters, John Ewing, Jodi Ruzicka, Joan Fisher, Rebecca Shields and Lillis Grassmick. Having a hand in the Gering Arts Festival myself, which is just a one-day event in Legion Park; I understand what an incredible undertaking Oregon Trail Days must be. It boggles my mind that you good people, with the help of many more volunteers, do this year after year after year. I am thankful for each of you and grateful that you continue to help Gering and the entire Valley shine on this weekend.
Thank you for reminding me of my roots, for giving me a chance to honor today’s pioneers like Teresa Scanlan, who is trailblazing a positive path for young girls, like Old Settlers President Don Parmenter who has lived the good life in our Valley, and like our brave local armed forces. I think my ancestors and yours are looking down upon us, and their hearts are swelling with pride.