Ltittle cowboy

Wyatt Swart rides a horse as part of the Chisholm Trail Stampede events going on at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and the Stephens County fairgrounds. Below, Kowboy Kal demonstrates rope tricks, Cricket Connywerdy with Oklahoma Fancy Dancers entertains with a medicine healing dance, (Photos by Vonda Christensen); and Duncan Police Officer Audrey Clark waves to the crowd.

The crowd was out in force and headed for fun Saturday.

Clear weather and temperatures near 80 degrees greeted visitors to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and the Stephens County fairgrounds on the first day of the annual Chisholm Trail Stampede.

Bill Benson, heritage center executive director, was pleased with the turnout.

“It’s excellent,” he said, “it’s going very, very well. There’s a variety of entertainment, and the weather is perfect.”

Vehicles at the museum not only took every parking spot, but also lined the drive. But the impact of visitors became obvious from the numerous people crowding around each booth.

Jessika McDonnell, Duncan Visitors and Convention Bureau director, said she was happy with the way the event was going and considered the turnout to be an improvement from last year, when rain prevented many people from attending.

“I think it’s the weather that’s keeping people out here,” McDonnell said.

The program is one of many local activities being considered official Centennial events. She said this title gave more promotion to the stampede.

“It gives it additional recognition,” McDonnell said.

In addition to the weather, Benson said the fact that the program was featured as a Centennial event helped with the turnout.

“A major thrust for this is the Centennial,” he said.

Although the heritage center might have had plenty of visitors during the weekend, the Stephens County fairgrounds also had activities to offer.

Fair Board Secretary Jeannie Bowden said she thought the program was going well at both locations.

“It’s going great,” Bowden said.

“It’s nice to have stuff at the museum and the fairgrounds. It’s kind of fun to go back and forth.”

The Chisholm Trail Stampede featured numerous entertainers, a livestock show, many vendors, chucks wagons and a longhorn drive. Organizations including the Stephens County Humane Society also benefited from the number of people attending the event.

McDonnell said many of the vendors and entertainers were from out of the area, and because of the program, many people were being brought in — a boost for the economy.

“I think with events like this, people get to see what Duncan has to offer,” she said. Benson said many visitors to the stampede were from other states, and the event allowed the museum to inform people about the Chisholm Trail.

“The benefit is that we’re able to provide the general public with information about the Chisholm Trail, encourage understanding and, at the same time, have a good time,” Benson said.

He said he was glad to have the longhorns returning for another year because of the role they play in the program.

“They’re always exciting,” Benson said. McDonnell said she thought the community was constantly trying to improve the stampede.

“Everyone is partnering together to make this a larger event,” McDonnell said.

The Chisholm Trail Stampede, a Centennial-designated event, continues today through next weekend with a variety of activities.

It concludes May 5 with the Chisholm Trail Stampede PRCA Dodge Rodeo at the fairgrounds. The Stampede 5K Walk/Run kicks off that day’s festivities. A parade down Duncan’s Main Street will begin at 2 p.m.

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