The smoky scent of cowboy coffee cooking over a campfire and the rhythmic sound of the crosscut saw working through cottonwood logs set the scene for the Roosevelt Elkhorn Festival on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016.
More than 300 people turned out to spend a mild and sunny autumn afternoon learning about the TR Presidential Library project and the rebuilding of the Elkhorn Ranch cabin at the site in Dickinson.
The event opened with comments from local leaders, followed by singer Emily Walter performing “We’re Ready for Teddy Again,” a 1912 campaign song written by Alfred Solman and Harry D. Kerr. During Walter’s rousing rendition, Theodore Roosevelt, portrayed by humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson, rode in on horseback to rally the crowd’s enthusiasm for the Presidential Library project.
“I understand you are going to build a monument to me, right here on this spot,” said Jenkinson in Roosevelt persona. “I couldn’t be more delighted.”
Master builder Richard Bickel demonstrated the historic tools and methods that will be used to build the Elkhorn Ranch cabin replica. The crowd learned first-hand how Wilmot Dow and Bill Sewall, with a little help from Roosevelt, debarked and squared the logs when they built the Elkhorn Ranch cabin during the winter of 1884-85.
Nearby, a pot of coffee was brewing over a campfire at the Absaroka Trading Post where handmade period clothing, beeswax candles, leather goods, and other assorted items were for sale. Next to the trading post, a young man in period dress shaped iron rods into tools for working the logs at a small coal-fired forge.
Families and children explored a variety of activities, including games and crafts conducted by Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) rangers. A model of the Elkhorn Ranch cabin, on loan from the TRNP, was also on display. Children enjoyed sack races, pony bikes, old-time costumes for dress-up, and roping practice. A team of Belgian draft horses pulled wagon loads of people to tour the Presidential Library grounds, while others navigated the course of a point to point hike. This course was built to imitate a favorite activity of Roosevelt’s in which people must travel from one point to another in a straight line regardless of the obstacles in their path.
The day’s events concluded with a community meal, western style, provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation.