On the Trail 8-17-09
Those of you who are regular readers of this column, may remember my series about this time a year ago when I wrote about “In Pursuit of a Dream,” a film project for the Oregon-California Trails Association. Working with Boston Productions, Quackgrass Sally and I had an opportunity to take 24 students out on the trail, travel with a wagon train for two weeks in Wyoming and Oregon, and capture it all on film.
This week, our efforts will be out there for you to see. We will have the Premiere showing of “In Pursuit of a Dream” on Aug. 19, at the Rialto Theater, 228 E. 4th St., in Loveland, Colo. This “Red Carpet” event begins at 4:30 p.m. in front of the Rialto and will include entertainment by Northern Plains Indian Drummers, 4:30-5:10 p.m.; Dream Trail Band, 5:20-5:40 p.m., and The Hartmans, 5:50-6:45 p.m.
The cast will enter the theater on the red carpet beginning at 6:30 p.m., with other seating to follow and the program to begin at 7:30 p.m. It will include a talk by a former “Wagon Train” and the airing of the film, followed by an opportunity to meet the cast.
Tickets for the premiere are selling fast, but may still be available by visiting the OCTA Web site at http://www.octa-trails.org.
Two additional film showings will be held at the Rialto on Thursday, one at 4 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. Tickets for those events will be available at the Rialto box office.
After the Colorado events, Quackgrass and I, along with some of our cast, will trail north to Saratoga for the Wyoming Film Festival. That event begins on Thursday, but our participation will start on Friday afternoon, when we set up a wagon camp at the Platte Valley Community Center.
We will remain in camp through Saturday with a number of historical presentations on tap. We are teaming up with members of the Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering Outfit for some music and poetry in camp following the film festival events on Friday night.
Planning to be on hand for the Saratoga events, in addition to Quackgrass and I, are three of our youth participants in the film, Rachel Stevens of Saratoga, Wyo., Andrew Stanley of Parker, Colo., and Frankie Israel of Casper, Wyo., along with adult participants and friends with trail experiences. These adults include Larry Gomez aka Tom Horn – veteran of travel on the California, Bozeman, Cherokee, Overland, and Cheyenne-Deadwood Trails and outrider “In Pursuit of a Dream;” Steve Moulton – veteran of the Mormon, California, Cherokee and Overland Trails and outrider “In Pursuit of a Dream;” Julie Gomez – veteran of travel on the Cherokee and Overland Trails and participant in “Stagecoach Exhibit” at National Historic Trail Interpretive Center (NHTIC); Terry A. Del Bene – veteran of travel on the Oregon, Mormon, California, Cherokee, and Overland Trails, archaeologist, and participant in “Stagecoach Exhibit” at NHTIC; Rick Stevens – cook for “In Pursuit of a Dream;” Chuck Larsen – gold miner in “In Pursuit of a Dream;” Carl, Tracy, and Elijah Israel – participants in “Stagecoach Exhibit” NHTIC; and Jay Locke – Film Editor of “In Pursuit of a Dream.”
On Saturday we will have many events at the wagon camp including general visiting from 9-10 a.m., an opportunity to learn about the History of the Oregon Trail and the filming/making of “In Pursuit of a Dream” from 10:30-11 a.m.; History of the Pony Express, Annual Re-Ride and plans for the 150th Anniversary of the Pony Express in 2010 presented by Quackgrass Sally at 11 a.m.; and History of the Cherokee Trail, California Trail, Donner Party presented by Terry A. Del Bene, and me at 11:30 a.m.
From 4:30-6 p.m. meet and visit with cast members and crew from “In Pursuit of a Dream” then listen to some cowboy music and poetry before attending the evening film events, which will include showing of our film plus the classic Western, “The Big Country” featuring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives and Chuck Connors. We expect more music and poetry in camp after the movies conclude.
During the 19th century around 400,000 people traveled the Oregon and California trails seeking new opportunities, land, and gold. They traveled with friends and family, or left all that behind and truly struck out on a new life.
When the Oregon-California Trails Association received a private donation and the directive to “make a documentary film about hardships on the trail,” I had the opportunity to become involved in the production working with Bob Noll of Boston Productions.
So how to tell this story from a fresh perspective?
Weave the story of hardships from the journals and experiences of children on the trail.
From that idea came our vision to take some kids out on the trail. Put them on a wagon train and let them learn firsthand about the history of the trail and the experience of traveling as the pioneers did.
First, we gave every student some new clothes … although we had them keep their own comfortable hiking shoes. After they changed into the pioneer dress, we gathered together again and talked about communication and then we headed out on the trail.
The students learned many things: how to establish camp, the struggle of walking through sand, and bathing in rivers, the joy of a stunning view from on top of Independence Rock, and how to rely on themselves and each other to make it day after day on the trail.
We filmed in Wyoming and in Oregon, moving from high plains to deep forest, and watched our student cast learn and grow in the process. We think that what we captured on film is a powerful statement about history and education.
As we had hoped when we began planning this film adventure, when the students returned home last year, they understood the overland migration and the value of preserving the trail today. As one of them said, “If you erase the trail, you erase history.” Both OCTA and Boston Productions believe the film will convey that message to students and families across the country.
For more information about the journey please visit http://www.octatrails.blogspot.com, join the group “In Pursuit of a Dream” on Facebook or visit our Web site http://www.octa-trails.org/In-Pursuit-of-a-Dream.