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All Points West: Join the games at Oregon Trail Days
July 01, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
What’s one of the best things about Oregon Trail Days, Nebraska’s oldest continuous celebration? There’s every reason to get in the game. Last year, upon my fateful return to Gering, I entered the Don Childs Memorial Five-Mile Run for the third time. This year, the race is scheduled for Friday, June 8. The registration requiring a $10-fee starts at 6 a.m., on 10th Street right outside the Citizen’s front door. The gun sounds at 7 a.m. Living in D.C., I was running the distance regularly from my office to the Tidal Basin. This year, tied to a desk pounding out great stories about my fellow Nebraskans, I have seen less of the open road. Nevertheless, I’ll be there to give it the old college try.

The race bears the name of Don Childs, Jr., a band director at Gering High School who was killed in a plane crash in the late 1970s. I first ran the race in 1980, but on a different course, one that meandered on a dirt road through the small canyons east of the Scotts Bluff National Monument. Runners then emerged on U Street in front of the Gering High School, then made a right turn on 10th Street to the finish in downtown. These days, the course goes straight out on Oregon Trail highway, and makes a U-turn almost a stone’s throw from the visitor center.

Not a runner? On Saturday, June 9, the Western Nebraska Bicycle Club hosts a 1.6-mile ride up Summit Road to the top of the monument. For $20, cyclists can register beginning at 6 a.m. A prompt 7 a.m. start next to the visitors center sends cyclists on the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb up the road one-by-one in a time trial format. This may be a ride in the park, but don’t be fooled. Be prepared to climb the entire distance, and considering the monument is 4,659 feet above sea level, oxygen debt quickly becomes a factor. Even experienced cyclists struggle, but in the end, it’s all in the name of good fun. There’s nothing like getting to the top of the monument on an early summer morning. Even if you don’t win your age category, you’re less than 1 percent of the community who can say they’ve been there, done that.

Looking for something off the beaten path? You might want to try the Street Vault with registration starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 8, near the Fresh Foods grocery store and Spectrum Photography on 10th Street. This year, the event features four divisions: Junior High, High School, College and Open. Organizers say there’s something for everyone. Competitors will use one runway with the opening height set at 4-foot-6. The bar will be raised at six-inch increments. Warm-up sessions will take place throughout the competition depending upon the number of vaulters at each height and length of time.

Competitors will also get a 10-minute warm-up period every hour. Otherwise, vaulters will compete without a break and without separate competitions for each division. There will be a
30-minute minimum warm-up at
2 p.m. Competitors must check in and give opening heights by
2 p.m. Medals will be awarded to the top three places in each division as well as to the oldest and youngest competitor. A $15 registration fee includes a T-shirt.

For more information, contact Bill Bauer at 308-436-4650.

Oh, and then there’s Mud Volleyball in the fields near Five Rocks Amphitheater starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 9. The event sponsored by Westco started in 2012 to commemorate Gering’s 125th birthday. Going into its fifth year, nearly 70 teams are expected to play. The double-elimination tourney follows normal rules except that matches are played to 15 points instead of the usual 21, and because of a time limit of 30 minutes per match, the team winning the most matches within the allotted time advances. For more information, call Rebecca Shields at 308-641-4018.

But wait, if you want to avoid the sweat, mud and tears, there’s more. After a short hiatus, the Oregon Trail Horseshoe Tournament was revived in 2014, and hosted more than 40 throwers. The following year, 2015, was just as successful. A $10 entry fee gets you into the tourney played at Oregon Trail Park with pre-registration starting at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 9. For more information, call the public relations officer for the Scotts Bluff Horseshoe League, The Chukars, and president of the West Nebraska Charter of the National Horseshoe Association, Tim Shaske at 308-641-3377.

Finally, if all you want to do is sit in the shade, with a hotdog in hand, washing it down with your favorite beverage, why not take in the Alumni Baseball game at Oregon Trail Park this Sunday, July 3 at 3 p.m. Why not bring your out-of-town guests to watch America’s favorite pastime as a warm-up to celebrating Independence day blended with preparations for Oregon Trail Days? The old timers might have their hands full with the young Legion team that has racked up nearly 30 wins this season.

If there are sports activities I missed, send me a letter, we’ll add you for next year. And don’t forget, fishing and boating at Lake Minatare; the swimming pools in Gering, Scottsbluff, and Mitchell; and the dozens of hiking trails at other area landmarks and parks.
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