Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Small Towns Have Creative Celebrations Despite COVID-19 Qualms

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

Photos by Jory Westberry | J.R. Scotts from Utah brings his intricate beadwork to Traders Row along with other handmade items.

Both horse and rider wait patiently for the start of the parade.

In the small town of Pinedale, WY, south of Jackson Hole, population of about 1,900give or take a new baby, mountain men, women and childrenreenact a Rendezvous of sorts to the delight of the residents and visitors from all over the country. Fortunately, because most of this event is held outside, it wasn’t canceled. There were signs everywhere about social distancing that were pertinent to western culture (see photos), the tents of the traders were farther apart than in past years, but the enthusiasm of the participants was clearly the same.  

In the past, starting in the 1800s, the Green River Rendezvous was held in the summer in a designated location for the Native Americans and mountain men/traders to meet and trade. Each would bring their coveted items, based on past experiences of trading success, including furs, rifles, jewelry, ammunition, trinkets of many kinds and yes, alcohol to celebrate the renewing of friendships and the comradery of many years of trading together. 

Pinedale is one of the few towns in WY that continues the recognition of the Rendezvous and many of the residents participate as actors in the parade and pageant each year. Small towns are noted for creative ideas and Pinedale is ranked right on top. Not only do they have a Tall Tale Competition, where people compete for the title of “Best Liar,” they also have a beard growing and shaving competition to raise funds for the continuation of the Rendezvous Pageant. Observers can bid on each or every one of the handsome participants and the monies are used to repair the wagons and other equipment used in the pageant.

In addition to Trader’s Row, there are interesting vendors’ booths along the sidewalks and in the small park near the food trucks that do a booming business. We found antlers, horns and Jackalope mounts for sale, defensive weapons, antiques, face-painting, succulent gardens, windmills that were completely amazing (I would have bought one except for the ++price), wooden creations like tables, jewelry, artwork and unique collections of rocks and minerals that we just had to purchase and so much more. Restaurants were doing a booming business because they serve great food all year long and tables were spaced at safe distances. Bars, not so much. But Wyoming is one of the lowest states for contraction of COVID-19. In fact, the local newspaper recently stated that Sublette County’s case numbers rose to 6, as opposed to 600 or 6000 in other parts of the country and world. 

The Museum of the Mountain Man, in Pinedale, is spectacular. During Rendezvous weekend, there are lectures, classes for children and adults, outside displays, living history demonstrations and hands-on activities. Renowned Native American Historian, Michael “Bad Hand” Terry was there to share his wealth of knowledge about Indian culture. He sets up a Plains Indian Encampment near the museum including sweat lodges, meat drying racks and a fully furnished tipi to show what items might be inside. 

If you like rodeos, there are three nights, Thursday through the finals on Saturday evening at the Pinedale Rodeo Grounds, just south of town. This is a fun event you don’t want to miss. So, if you’re touring the National Parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton in Wyoming, you might stray a bit farther south to participate in the Sublette County Rendezvous which is doggone fun. 

Way back in 1936, the residents of Sublette County decided to create a Rendezvous pageant that depicted the actual trading and festivities of the Green River Rendezvous, which has continued to this year until COVID-19 stepped in. Because of the requirement for social distancing and the limited bleachers, they canceled this part of the July weekend celebration. However, the parade went off on time on Saturday, there were presenters at the Museum of the Mountain Man, classes for children and adults, displays, knowledgeable speakers about the Native Americans, live music and the venders, Traders Row, musical events and a ton of fun.


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