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History campers portray life on the Santa Fe Trail
Free programs offered Friday at Barton County Historical Society
Dressed as characters who traveled the Santa Fe Trail, participants of the “Ride Into History” camp are ready to share their stories. From left: Britt Collee, McPherson; Samantha Negaard, 11, Great Bend; Abby Wanker, 10, Larned; and Eli Leech, 9, Great Bend.

This week, participants in the “Ride Into History” camp going on at the Barton County Historical Society have been learning how to research and portray a character from history. Friday evening, the public can enjoy the fruits of their labors by attending “A Night at the Museum.”

Museum Office Manager Leslie Helsel said the program is inspired by “Night at the Museum” movies, where wax characters such as Teddy Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart magically come to life every night. In this case, the historic figures will be based on people who traveled the Santa Fe Trail.

The Quivira Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, which includes Barton, Rice and McPherson counties, is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the famous commercial route all year long, said Linda Colle, chapter president. The group sponsored the Ride Into History camp and will host similar camps later in Lyons and McPherson. The camps are open to all ages.

Originally scheduled to run in June, the next camps have been postponed due to illness. Registration information and forms are available at:  

The Trail is an overlooked attraction, Colle said. “It’s been here 200 years and a lot of people don’t know it.”

In addition to promoting the Trail with the camps, Colle said the chapter hopes to recruit historical presenters for future programs.  

Susan Dunhaupt with Ride Into History explained, “The camp is for people to learn to be historical performers.” Participants choose their character and research events from that person’s history. Once they investigate their character, participants will learn the stories to tell. Ride into History provides the tools each participant needs to weave the stories together in an effective manner as they become the person they are researching. As participants become their characters, they will trade their modern-day duds for historical clothing from Ride into History’s portable “Green Room.” Hats, boots and shoes complete the outfit.

Each camp will end with a performance so that participants can show off the skills they have learned to family and friends. The Barton County performances will be at 5, 5:30, 6 and 6:30 Friday, June 11, at the museum, located just south of the Arkansas River Bridge on U.S. 281 in Great Bend. Helsel said admission is free but reservations are needed. Call the museum Friday; the number is 620-793-5125. Participants will assume the persona of their character, tell the stories, and bring history alive for their audience. Colle’s husband Britt will portray William Becknell, the man credited with opening the Santa Fe Trail. Other presenters will include Samantha Negaard, 11, and Eli Leech, 9, both from Great Bend, and Abby Wanker, 10 from Larned.