Story and Photos Melissa Burke
Rapid City, S.D.

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August 22, 2013
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History comes to life during the Days of '76

Mention the name “Deadwood, South Dakota,” and all manner of characters might come to mind: gunfighters, gold prospectors, gamblers, businessmen, muleskinners and madams.

Add to the mix such individuals as Wild Bill Hickok, Poker Alice and Potato Creek Johnny, and you have the ingredients for a genuine Old West town.

The Deadwood of today is much tamer, but history comes to life each July during the Days of ’76 celebration.

Locals and tourists alike flock to the town to watch parades and PRCA rodeos, and to see the newly completed Days of ’76 Museum.

The parade is scripted and follows Deadwood’s history from its settlement to its modern-day popularity as a tourist attraction. Period costumes are a favorite, as are the horse-drawn carriages, particularly the replica of the Deadwood to Cheyenne Stagecoach.

Portrayed by actors are Wild Bill Hickok, Poker Alice, and Potato Creek Johnny.

The rodeo became a formal part of the Days of ’76 celebration in 1928.

It is a mid-size outdoor rodeo and has been voted by the PRCA as best in its class every year since 2004.

It was also inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2011.

What makes the rodeo so successful?

A big part of the reason is that a special committee made up of volunteers produces it, which allows for all dollars raised to be put back into the event and the prizes.

This year’s prize money amounted to over $200,000, with nearly 700 PRCA contestants vying for it.

Between rodeo events there are entertainers, as well as reenactments, such as the killing of Wild Bill Hickok.

The new Days of ’76 Museum opened in June of 2012.

It honors both the Days of ’76 itself and the parade.

Tribute is also paid to people who have served for generations on the committee.

There is a Native American exhibit, which features a variety of artifacts, as well as a firearms exhibit that showcases nearly 100 rifles with related stories on the wall behind.

The lower level of the museum offers a collection of vintage horse-drawn vehicles. This is where the original Deadwood to Cheyenne Stage is housed.

Known for its beautiful scenery, true-to-life historical portrayals, and some of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the sport of rodeo, the Days of ’76 has become a destination for people from all walks of life.

No wonder its motto is “Best Rodeo. No Bull.” ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 02:38PM Published Sep 16, 2013 09:54AM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.