Edgerton residents need help to save future of annual Pioneer Days festival

Jordan Keefhaver remembers being a part of the Pioneer Days Festival parade as a kid. She also remembers the annual event going dormant for a period of years, and the North Platte High School alum doesn’t want to see that happen again.

Held each year during the second weekend of September, the Pioneer Days Festival usually requires planning from October up until the event. Volunteers for the 2016 event ran low, which cut into time to gather funding.

Organizers recently started a GoFundMe page to help generate financial support but have so far only generated $325 with a stated goal of $7,500. They have already had to cancel the carnival due to lack of funding and the inability to contract a provider due to the late start.

“Literally nobody expressed interest in being involved (after last year’s Pioneer Days),” Keefhaver said. “By April, it was basically understood there would be no festival this year.”

Instead, five individuals stepped up and have the event on track to happen.

Tobyann Turley is this year’s Pioneer Days Committee president, and other committee members include Autumn Keefhaver, Jordan Keefhaver and Felicia Harmer. Jordan Keefhaver said the group would like to have 15 on the committee, and they need more volunteers to step up now or the event might not happen beyond 2016.

The answer in the future could be partnering with the cities of Camden Point and Dearborn to work together in fundraising and organizing efforts. The three cities make up the North Platte School District and have a strong connection.

However, Camden Point hosts its annual Freedom Festival, while Edgerton has Pioneer Days. Both provide a unique event for those communities that remain important.

“We all agreed we’d really hate to see the festival die out because it’s a small town and it’s really the only annual event that brings everyone together,” Keefhaver said.

This year’s event is planned for Sept. 9-11 with various activities, contests and entertainment planned.

Each fall, Edgerton residents and those from surrounding areas come together to celebrate the community’s history while also having fun. Admission, parking and most of the entertainment are free.

Organized by members of a volunteer committee with sponsorships and assistance from area businesses and organizations, the festival features arts, crafts and food vendors, one of the largest parades in Platte County, live entertainment, artisans and demonstrations, shootouts by re-enactors and pony rides.

Area youngsters compete for the title of Little Mr./Miss Pioneer Days. Other events have included a co-ed softball tournament, chainsaw carving demonstrations and a fish fry.

This year’s live music lineup even features Matt Snook, who grew up in Edgerton before going on to carve out a successful music career and again lives in the area. Raised on his parents’ farm, his journey as a songwriter began at 15 when he wrote four of the songs on his first project. The album sold 500 copies in its first three months. 

Other performers scheduled to play include Bill Boswell Band with Bum Williams, State Line Drive, John Goolsby, Tanner Dirks Band and Teddy and the Bears. The Tanner Dirks Band features North Platte alum Joe Fedrizzi.

The Pioneer Days committee has two more fundraisers planned. They will host a spaghetti dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13 and a pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Both events will be at Edgerton’s American Legion Hall.

The Keefhavers also plan to raffle off two halves of a hog, which they will donate, in addition to a potential gun raffle.

The Pioneer Days Festival committee is also looking for vendors for this year’s festival. Those interested can contact Autumn Keefhaver (816) 535-7074 for more information. Booths are 10 feet x 10 feet and cost $45 with electricity or $35 without electricity.