Buffalo Bill visits Evergreen

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Youngsters are treated to a rollicking re-enactment at Pioneerpalooza

By Beth Potter

Buffalo Bill was in Evergreen on June 11 to tell his story — dressed to the teeth in a light-tan buckskin jacket with fringe, knee-high black boots, a trimmed goatee and a cowboy hat.

Was it really THE Buffalo Bill Cody of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show fame of the late 1800s?

Of course not.

But the 6- to 8-year-olds at Pioneerpalooza at the Hiwan Homestead Museum didn’t know the difference. They were mesmerized by actor Jeff “Gunny” Norman, who portrayed a “rated-G” version of the buffalo hunter and showman. Norman has a “PG” version for adult audiences.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show — including sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Chief Sitting Bull and a troop of Native Americans — traveled around the United States and to London in their heyday, leaving a lasting imprint on American culture.

Did you know that Buffalo Bill originally was called “Duck Bill” because of an overbite? That was one factoid Norman told the kids.

Or did you know that Annie Oakley had no family? Historical figure Kit Carson was a general in the U.S. Army, but he couldn’t read or write, Norman said. Sitting Bull originally was called “Slow,” he said.

Norman asked the children if they knew of a football team in the United States that’s named after Cody, and compared him to singer Justin Bieber of modern fame.

“I avoid telling (the children) dates, because I know when I was in school I didn’t remember dates,” Norman said afterward. “But not so long ago, I was the most famous man in America. There aren’t any football teams called the Justin Biebers.”

Pioneerpalooza is a week-long event for children, formerly called Discovery Days. Children ages 6 to 13 learned about pioneer history through activities, crafts, tours and games during the week.

Jack Birch, 7, asked Norman if he was “real” or “fake” as Buffalo Bill. Norman told Birch he was both, since he’s portraying a famous person who died in 1917. Buffalo Bill’s grave and a museum are located on top of Lookout Mountain.

Avrie Bunchman, 7, said she thought Cody was pretty cool.

“I like that he hunted many animals,” Avrie said.

Hannah Crangle, 8, wore her cowboy boots specifically for the Pioneerpalooza events. Crangle said her mom wanted her to get accustomed to walking in the boots so she could walk in the Evergreen Rodeo Parade with her Girl Scout troop.

Buffalo Bill wasn’t the only highlight of Wednesday’s events. Children also made toys out of spools and baked cakes, which they got to eat later. During the week-long event, they also were to learn how to pack a pioneer wagon, how to churn butter, how to pan for gold, and about other historical pioneer activities.

Aiden Anderson, 6, wound his spool toy with a toothpick affixed to the top and invited other kids to race their toys against his. A rubber band inside the spool made it go fast, Aiden said. When he set it down on a wooden porch, the spool rolled forward.

During the week, children ages 9 to 13 could visit a different Jefferson County Open Space park each afternoon and learn about the history of Jefferson County.

Cost was $100 for the week of activities at the museum, which is at 4208 S. Timbervale Drive. Hiwan includes a 26-room log home and other buildings that are open to the public. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s operated by the Jefferson County Open Space Department in partnership with the Jefferson County Historical Society.

Contact Beth Potter at beth@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1043.