Wagon train celebrates Ohio#039;s bicentennial

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

This weekend, some Lawrence County residents were leisurely cooking out on the grill while their children played in the yard, watching the cars drive by.

Those cars suddenly turned into horses, cowboys and cowgirls and covered wagons.

This temporary time warp was the result of the Lawrence County Chapter of the Ohio Horseman's Council sponsoring a wagon train to celebrate the state's 200th birthday.

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Friday night, approximately 75 to 100 riders and wagon drivers spent a night under the stars at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds. At 10 a.m., they left the fairgrounds and traveled through Proctorville and Chesapeake, stopping at the Lawrence County Airpark to eat lunch and water the horses. The ride then continued into Burlington and finally stopped at the South Point Village Park, where the riders camped out for the night once again.

The South Point Volunteer Fire Department prepared dinner for the riders Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning and raffled off a 2003 Honda Recon 250 4-wheeler to raise money for a new rescue truck for the department.

Even though the county's horseman's council had not had a wagon train in 10 years, the council decided that having one would be the perfect way to commemorate Ohio's bicentennial, Charlie Callicoat, chapter president, said.

During the first campout, Mother Nature briefly unleashed her wrath with heavy rain. However, the riders were able to take shelter under canopies.

"It wasn't bad at all," Callicoat said.

Callicoat said that because of the weather, he was very pleased with the wagon train's turnout.

The riders were not only able to camp out for the night in South Point's park with food provided by the village's volunteer fire department, but city officials in Ironton also had planned a three-hour mini festival around the wagon train's arrival at the Ironton Commerce Center.

"(Local officials) have bent over backwards," Callicoat said. "Police have also volunteered their time to help us."

Miss Rodeo Ohio 2003 Julie Huddle, a 17-year-old Ironton resident and Rock Hill High School senior, was balancing her participation in the wagon train with her school's "Oklahoma!" performance. Nevertheless, she and her horse Lady Diana were having a good time.

"I like it. Twenty-four/seven, give me a horse and a saddle, and I'll go ride all day," she said.

Ohio Junior Miss Rodeo, 13-year-old Ironton resident Nikki Cosner, was ready to camp out, even though the weather was bad.

"I love to, even when it's raining, sleeting, snowing -- anything," she said.

Those participating in the wagon train received a variety of reactions from motorists and residents along the path.

"A few have been upset because of traffic holdups, but the majority have enjoyed it and waved at us," Callicoat said.

Ironton resident Rich Spencer drove a truck behind the wagon train.

"Some kids said, 'Look! They have a truck with them in case (the horses) have a flat tire,'" he said.

"It's fun to see kids' faces and to see their parents and grandparents smiling and waving, watching us go down the road," Cosner said.

"Some people were on their cell phones, and then they said, 'Look, look, look!'," Westley Graff, a 15-year-old Franklin Furnace resident said.

The wagon train was a family affair for Graff. Besides her horse Bob, her mother and grandfather came along.

"This is a 200-year deal," Jack Maddox, Graff's grandfather, said. "I probably won't have a chance to be in a 400-year deal. The people (along the route) have seemed to be extremely friendly, especially the kids. I'd take them all for a ride if I could."

This morning, the wagon train will pull out of South Point and travel to Coal Grove along U.S. 52 and then proceed to Ironton for the festival. The train will then travel through Third, Center and Second streets, then disband in Hanging Rock.