Old West Comes Alive as HSU Hosts Western Heritage Day

Published 04/16 2014 09:14AM

Updated 04/16 2014 12:23PM

The sights, sounds, and flavor of the old west will come alive for more than 3000 area school children as they visit Hardin-Simmons University’s Western Heritage Day, April 17, 2014.

This will be the 33rd year HSU faculty, staff, and students will don western duds to help recreate scenes from a time when buffalo and longhorn cattle ruled the prairies of West Texas.

“Western Heritage Day provides a physical link to a distant time,” said Dr. George Newman, professor of biology emeritus and one of the founders of the event. Newman said activities during the day are designed to immerse children in western culture as it might have been in Abilene during the 1800’s.

Visitors to the campus will see the expansive area around HSU’s pond transformed as saddled horses, longhorn cattle, and camp fires dot the grounds. HSU students, faculty, and staff will instruct little cowboys and cowgirls how to rope “steers,” pump water from authentic hand pumps, and play old-time games.

Children can watch a farrier shoe a horse and meet the famed HSU Six White Horses. Children will also learn about weaving, quilt making, and boot and hat making through demonstrations from professional vendors.

Students in the Irvin School of Education will share western tales and folklore with the children while university students studying theatre arts will perform old-time western melodramas. Science and math students will man the branding irons to stamp out “HSU” brands on wood planks for children to take home.

Children can also have their faces painted by HSU students studying speech and language pathology. University students use the opportunity to practice some of the listening skills they are learning in class as they chat with the children.

One of the most popular activities is tasting the Cowboy beans and biscuits. While smoke curls from a nearby chuck wagon, children can observe how food was cooked over an open fire. Close-by, a buckskin-clad frontiersmen will show off Texas longhorns from the state herd at Ft. Griffin, and children can dance to the music of a local western swing band playing tunes favored by early settlers. At noon, visitors can enjoy the antics and lively music of the HSU “World Famous” Cowboy Band.

Typically, children come by bus or van from their elementary schools and daycares, and they spend about 90 minutes exploring the activities.

The event runs from approximately 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., although most schools arrive early. Western Heritage Day is open to the general public and is appropriate for children from preschool through fifth grade.

In addition to these activities, HSU invites teachers/parents and their classes to extend their experience by bringing a sack lunch and enjoying the Western atmosphere as they enjoy a picnic in Walton Grove next to HSU’s recently enhanced pond.

Watch this video with Dr. George Newman, one of the founders of Western Heritage Day.

About the origins of Western Heritage Day:

Dr. George Newman says Western Heritage Day evolved from a 1981 discussion in the HSU faculty lounge between himself, Dr. Randy Armstrong, associate dean of the Cynthia Ann Parker College of
Liberal Arts, and Dr. Bill Curtis, associate professor of finance and economics. Also taking part in the discussion were the late Dr. Lawrence Clayton, dean of the college of liberal arts and professor of English, and B.W. Aston, senior professor of history emeritus.

Newman said the group talked about the possibility of a campus event where the community could come to experience and honor the traditions of our western heritage. The format of re-enactments, displays, and interactive demonstrations was born and the first Western Heritage Day was held in 1982.

One third of a century later, the event continues to grow and evolve each year.

Hardin-Simmons University’s Western Heritage Day is made possible by gifts from the Guy Caldwell Endowment for Western Heritage and the Lee and Lou C. Evans Endowment for Western Heritage.

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