Pioneer celebration set for Thursday

By Tony Parra

Pioneer Days on Thursday at the Roosevelt County Fair will continue a long-standing tradition of honoring the Roosevelt County pioneers, according to Joy Gardner, President of The Pioneer Association.
The Pioneer Days ceremony is one component of the Senior Citizens’ Day portion of the fair. Admission is free for those who are attending the Pioneer Days Ceremony from 9 a.m. to noon, according to Gardner. It will be followed by Military Appreciation Night from 5 p.m. to midnight.
“It’s a tradition (Pioneer Days) which dates back a long way,” Joy Gardner, President of The Pioneer Association, said. “It goes on every Thursday at the fair for many years.”
The Roosevelt County Pioneer Days ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in the Jake Lopez Building. There wil be a music show as part of Pioneer Days, which will begin at 10:30 a.m.
Howell Merrick, one of the entertainers who will be playing the guitar, said approximately 20 people will be playing musical instruments or singing.
Merrick used to play in a band called the Border Bandits around the county, but Merrick said most of the band members have passed away. Merrick said he’ll be playing alongside “The Sharing Hearts” with other band members, including Jack Carr on the fiddle and Dorothy Gamble on the piano.
“It’s an elderly group that has gotten together to sing for rest homes and things like that,” Merrick said. “Dorothy is very good on the piano. We play a collection of golden oldies from the 1930s.”
The Pioneer of the Year awards will be announced after the music show. Merrick was last year’s winner along with Elrie Capps.
“It (Pioneer Days) means a lot for them (senior citizens),” Merrick said. “It gives them a chance to reminisce and it brings back memories of their youth. It’s a wonderful thing for them and (it helps them) to appreciate what they have done for the county. We came here to raise our children. I was well-pleased with raising them here.”
Merrick said he has been living in Roosevelt County for 31 years. He also said Gardner’s grandparents, the Townsends, settled in Roosevelt County in 1903.
Gardner said there were approximately 190 people at the Pioneer Days festivities last year and she is anticipating a bigger crowd for this year. She said the decision for this year’s Pioneer Awards are made in July.
“We go through a list of people given to us to pick out the pioneer,” Gardner said. “It could be the person who won the Heritage Days Pioneer of the Year Award (Dewey Langston), but we try to pick someone else to pass the honor around. We take into consideration what the candidates have done for the community and for the fair.”
Gardner said there will also be a memorial segment of Pioneer Days dedicated to those who passed away from last year’s fair until the start of this year’s fair.
She said there is a potluck lunch scheduled for after the events at noon. Gardner said attendees need to bring one dish or bring money donations for the potluck lunch.
According to Gardner, plans are made ahead of time so many senior citizens can attend Pioneer Days.
“We have members from the nursing home (Heartland Care Center),” Gardner said. “We have coordinated with the Senior Citizens meal site so they can come to Pioneer Days, also.”
Along with Pioneer Days and Military Appreciation Night, there is also a Mexican Heritage Days festival on Sunday. Organizers say the objective of the fair is to encompass as many of the county’s characteristics as possible.
“We wanted to include all different venues so everybody could come out,” Kent Best, Roosevelt County Fair Board president, said. “Some of the events, such as the Spanish music festival and military appreciation night, have evolved from the other events. It’s a way of showing our appreciation to the people who make up our community.”