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Parade, chuckwagon event draw crowds downtown

Published 6/11/2012 in Beef Empire Days-Entertainment

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Marcy Wilke has been taking her family to the Beef Empire Days parade for more than 20 years.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Area residents fill the south end of Stevens Park Saturday to line up for barbecued chunks of beef during the annual Beef Empire Days Chuckwagons in the Park.

Brad Nading/Telegram Area residents fill the south end of Stevens Park Saturday to line up for barbecued chunks of beef during the annual Beef Empire Days Chuckwagons in the Park.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Bernadette Martinez, right, hands out popsicles to members of the crowd watching the Black Hills Energy Beef Empire Days Parade Saturday as part of the Schwan's entry.

Brad Nading/Telegram Bernadette Martinez, right, hands out popsicles to members of the crowd watching the Black Hills Energy Beef Empire Days Parade Saturday as part of the Schwan's entry.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Horses of all sizes, including these miniatures, were entries in SaturdayÕs Black Hills Energy Beef Empire Days Parade on Main Street.

Brad Nading/Telegram Horses of all sizes, including these miniatures, were entries in SaturdayÕs Black Hills Energy Beef Empire Days Parade on Main Street.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Carson Kraus, 6, center top, keeps an eye on beef being cut in to bite-sized pieces Saturday from atop the supply cabinet of his granddad, Dan Kraus', covered wagon in Stevens Park during part of the prep work for the annual Beef Empire Days Chuckwagons in the Park.

Brad Nading/Telegram Carson Kraus, 6, center top, keeps an eye on beef being cut in to bite-sized pieces Saturday from atop the supply cabinet of his granddad, Dan Kraus', covered wagon in Stevens Park during part of the prep work for the annual Beef Empire Days Chuckwagons in the Park.

Sometimes the family gatherings are big, and sometimes small, she said.

Wilke brought her granddaughter, Heather Mesa, 23, and Mesa's daughter, Bella Bribiesca, 13 months, to the annual parade Saturday.

"It's a tradition. We've been coming to this for years," Wilke said.

Mesa said she enjoys seeing the parade entries and the people who come to watch the parade.

"It's a great atmosphere, and I just like seeing all of the people I don't get to see all of the time," Mesa said.

"It's just a fun time," Wilke said.

In order to keep the crowds cool and hydrated, members of the Beacon Boosters 4-H Club sold water as a fundraiser for the Cattle Women's Association. The club keeps some of the proceeds from the sales.

On Saturday, Jensen Strasser, 15, helped sell water.

"I like seeing the people — all of the people we know," Jensen said.

Her mother, Jana Strasser, said the water sales are a good moneymaker for the club.

The 2012 Black Hills Energy Beef Empire Days Parade started at the traditional time of 10:30 a.m., with the theme of "Make Mine Beef."

Grand Marshall and Satanta resident Jim Miller led the parade on horseback. He was selected in part due to his decades of volunteering and participating in Beef Empire Days.

Born in Lawrence, Miller has been a resident of Satanta since he was 12. He farmed for 13 years before building Miller Feed Yard in 1969, going from 2,500 cattle to 17,500 when he sold the business last year.

"We grew quite a little bit," Miller said. "I built the thing myself with my own two hands. I dug the post holes, laid the pipe and learned how to weld."

Miller has been a part of Beef Empire Days since 1969. He has participated in events like the Live and Carcass shows annually, as well as serving on the Beef Empire Days Board of Directors many years ago. He said that since its beginnings, Beef Empire Days has grown to be a huge event.

After the parade, those who were downtown had the opportunity to sample a variety of beef at the Chuckwagons in the Park Community Feed.

A chuckwagon originally was a wagon that carried food and cooking equipment on the prairies in North America in the late 1800s. The chuckwagon served as a mobile kitchen, traveling ahead of a wagon train of settlers or cowboys on cattle drives in the late 1800s. The invention of the chuckwagon is attributed to Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher who introduced the concept in 1866. "Chuck" was then a common slang term for food, including easy-to-preserve items like beans and salted meats, coffee and sourdough biscuits.

It's the history of the chuckwagon that keeps Bob Baker, owner of Baker Boot, intrigued. Baker had a chuckwagon parked in Stevens Park Saturday. He prepared sirloin tips and stew meat, and said he had prepared about 100 pounds of meat. He and his wife, Jolene, attend various chuckwagon gatherings and competitions.

"That's the fun part — going to contests and seeing the different wagons. They're as close to the ones in the 1860s as possible," he said.

As far as the meat, Baker said he uses a special recipe. There are parts of the preparation he wants to remain secret, but he did name his seasoning.

"It's called 'Butt Rub' and you can happen to get it at Baker Boot," he said.

Like the Wilke and Strasser family, the Bakers say their favorite part about getting out into the community is seeing the people.

"It's a fun event, and we think the meat is pretty good," Baker said.

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