Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By John Davis

Washakie Day Part II

Last week I wrote about the “Washakie Day” celebrations first had in 1913, when Washakie County began operation, and I stated that after four years of exuberant celebration, the event was not held in 1917.


December 27, 2017

Last week I wrote about the “Washakie Day” celebrations first had in 1913, when Washakie County began operation, and I stated that after four years of exuberant celebration, the event was not held in 1917. The reason for this decision was that the nation had gone to war in April 1917, and Worland’s citizens felt that it was not appropriate to celebrate Washakie Day this year, though they were clearly disappointed.

In 1918, however, Washakie County citizens decided that the war might go on indefinitely, and they needed to get on with life. The people therefore determined that they would have a Washakie Day celebration in September, and it would be the “biggest and best” such event ever held in Worland.

The 1919 celebration was also scheduled for September. But in October of 1918, the county had suffered such an overwhelming calamity that it would seem the holding of any public event for a good long while would be highly improbable. During October 1918, the Spanish flu descended on the county and started infecting citizens, eventually killing over 20 people, about 1 percent of the entire population. The authorities took strong measures to counter the disease, including county-wide quarantine rules; people avoided gatherings of all kinds.

At first it appeared that the epidemic was over in Worland by late October, but then it came roaring back in November. The worst time was the second week of December 1918, when 14 Washakie County people died. You would think that the disease would completely defeat outings such as Washakie Day, but its timing (and the resilience of the citizens), allowed the continuation of the Washakie County celebration. As you can see from the above discussion, the flu didn’t appear until just after the 1918 Washakie Day celebration, and it was over some months before the 1919 celebration.

Washakie Day was held again in 1920, but was called off for 1921. In its Sept. 1, 1921 issue, the Grit explained that despite the disappointment of some citizens, it was felt that it was a bad time financially for Washakie County (the boom years during World War I were followed by a sharp recession), and that it was best to just prepare for 1922. The tradition of Washakie Day was in fact resumed in 1922. It was held on Sept. 8, 1922, and the Sept. 14 edition of the Grit carried a headline stating “Washakie Day Big Success.” Still, there were rumblings that Washakie Day was preventing a proper county fair.

In 1923 it was decided that Washakie Day and the Washakie County Fair would be amalgamated, which turned into a jam-packed series of events over two days. This was the arrangement that continued for several years, until 1930. During this time, however, it was clear that the enthusiasm for the old Washakie Day celebration was diminishing. In 1931, the Worland Grit carried no articles about either the fair or Washakie Day, in stark contrast to the exuberant pieces published in earlier years.

And, in 1932, the fair board decided not to stage the regular Washakie Day celebration, and this seemed to be the end of our celebration of Washakie County’s creation.

As I continued to search through the Worland Grit for confirmation of my supposition, however, I was to encounter a big surprise – actually a couple of big surprises – about the ultimate fate of Washakie Day, and I’ll tell you about those next week.

For now, I just want to note that there were several years after 1917 in which a form of Washakie Day was celebrated, and that’s significant to me, because my family, the Beadles, arrived in this area in 1917, and I remember my grandmother talking about going to a celebration in Worland. I expect that at least once the Beadles cranked up their Model T, crammed in five or six kids (on the way to eight), and set out for a trip to Worland for Washakie Day.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is retired. He is the author of several books.


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