LEEDS — More than a hundred people roamed through the soft grass of the Leeds City Park Friday for the first evening of Wild West Days, an event aimed at reawakening the lifestyle and traditions of the Wild West.
With depictions of gunslingers decorating the park and fresh, just-off-the-tree apples for sale, Wild West Days in Leeds evokes a sense of retrospective contemplation about the Western movement that began in the 1800s — a journey later romanticized by novelists and Hollywood. Even two centuries later, the intrigue of cowboys, saloons and outlaws of the American West lives on.
Square dancers from the Sunshine Dancers group started off Friday night’s events, showcasing what one of the dancers, Sandra Lucus, of St. George, called “the American art form.”
“The Irish have their river dance and we have the square dance,” Lucus said. “I think it’s sad that square dancing isn’t as widely practiced and danced anymore. I would love to see more young people learning to square dance.”
The resurrection of the Wild West in Leeds is about nurturing the spirit of community, said Angela Rohr, Silver Reef resident and Leeds councilwoman. Rohr helped organize Wild West Days. Just two weeks ago, food vendors were nonexistent, she said; but, surprisingly, a multitude of people stepped up and offered assistance.
“It’s certainly not Peach Days,” Rohr said, “but bringing back this event gives people a feeling of pride.”
She added that traditions, like residential farming, are encouraged in Leeds.
“We try to foster a good mix by encouraging residents to grow their own food, even just a small garden,” Rohr said. “From what I’ve heard, Leeds has the longest growing season in Washington County. What are we going to do after we build houses on all the farmland?”
Before the dawning of golden arches or fake diamond-encrusted iPhone cases, people of the West were connected through survival, faith and a dream of what lay yonder beyond the Western horizon. It is the modern technology that has caused a disconnect in our society and aided in the decline of Western traditions in our communities, said Jesse Reed, of Leeds, who was dressed as a deputy for a historical play that was part of the night’s entertainment. Reed was decked out in a tan leather vest and a gold, star-shaped sheriff pin.
“I consider myself a modern cowboy,” Reed said. “Leeds was a part of the entire Western movement. I don’t think the Wild West gets represented in the modern days, and I think it’s important that we perpetuate an understanding to the younger generations of what the Wild West really was. I think we’ve lost contact with each other because of modern technology. In the early days, we had to rely on our neighbors.”
Wild West days continues until 11 p.m. Saturday, offering a peek into the early days of Leeds.
Click here for a more in-depth summary of the Wild West Days events: Life in late 1800s, Wild West Days returns
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