Lecompton's Camp Fire club traveled to Abilene three years ago and drove along the Oregon Trail on the way home. The trail triggered an idea for club leader Sandy Shores.
"The girls had such a good time riding in a stagecoach in Abilene," she said. "I thought, wouldn't it be neat to ride in a covered wagon along the Oregon Trail?"
When she realized 1993 was the 150th anniversary of the trail, she knew the time had come to expose her fifth- and sixth-grade girls to pioneer life. As part of Camp Fire's "Discover Kansas" program, the club has studied what life was like at the turn of the century, and club members got their first exposure to trail travel on a two-day wagon trip in May. The girls camped at a Pony Express station in Hanover and rode 23 miles in a covered wagon to Rock Creek Station in Nebraska.
The club, named AkTaTic, will take to the trail again Saturday for "Westward Ho!" during Lecompton's annual Territorial Day celebration. Shores tracked down a Grantville man who restores covered wagons, and he offered the use of an original Conestoga wagon for the trek. An Ottawa man who owns draft horses has volunteered a team to pull the wagon, she said.
The wagon will leave Lecompton from the corner of Woodson and Whitfield at noon Saturday, traveling west on Douglas County Road 1023 to U.S. Highway 40. Following the Oregon Trail, they'll head to Big Springs, where the club will ride a wagon out to the historic trail ruts still visible at the Bud Newell farm. Pioneer guides will share the history of the trail as well as songs and dances from that era. The event will wrap up with a stew and corn bread supper.
"What we're trying to accomplish here is to give them a taste of what it was like for pioneer children heading west on the Oregon Trail," said Shores, adding that learning what the pioneers endured helps today's children understand the value of a strong work ethic. "It's just very exciting to me because I think if kids learn to appreciate the past, they'll be better equipped to deal with the present."
The girls will be dressed in traditional bonnets, dresses, aprons and bloomers in red, white and blue, the colors of Camp Fire. While riding on the wagon, they'll participate in the types of activities that pioneer children used to pass the time -- writing in journals with quill pens and ink, playing jacks with a wooden ball, scribbling on a slate board with chalk, playing marbles and checkers, quilting, making a braided rug, or singing pioneer songs.
Shores referred to the book, "To Be a Pioneer," by Paul Burns and Ruth Hines, to teach her club what their lives might have been like 100 years ago.
"We want this to be as authentic as possible," she said.
The Camp Fire girls making the wagon ride will be Larissa Leochner, Shannon Wise, Shawna Criqui, Stacie Patneaude, Cindy Wise, Shelly Shores, Mandy Roscovious, Hannah Criqui and Andrea Shaner. Shores said anyone interested in taking a step back in time may join in with their horse, buggy or wagon, or even walk along for part or all of the seven-mile trip. There is a charge for the meals. For more information, call Shores at 887-6156 and leave a message.