To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail, Council Grove is holding multiple events throughout 2021.

The signature event is called “Rendezvous at Council Grove” and will be held on Sept. 17 - 18. As part of this historic weekend, a wagon show will be held in Council Oak Park, which is located on the Santa Fe Trail at 210 East Main St.

There will be no entry or admission fee for the event. The wagons will be divided into three categories: Farm, Military and Freight. Total prize money of $1,500 will be split evenly between the three divisions. No rubber tires allowed. No animals allowed, unless approved by the Wagon Committee.

Jeff MacManus and Rawhide Johnson, President and Vice-President of the National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association plan to attend. The National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association (NSFWA) is a not-for-profit organization created to help detail the triumphs, struggles and day-to-day operation of these legendary vehicles within the extremely competitive, early commercial empires they supported.

The Association was founded in 2008 by a group of people who saw the need for an organization that focused on the commercial stagecoach and freight wagons. McManus, a skilled blacksmith, will give blacksmithing demonstrations throughout the event. Johnson will be a guest speaker.

David Sneed, a noted historian of horse-drawn wooden wagons, will be a guest speaker and judge. With more than two decades of personal research, today David Sneed is the founder of the country’s largest private collection of western vehicle archives. Inside his sprawling files are countless original catalogs, photographs, patents, promotional materials, and related ephemera.

Records in his “Wheels That Won The West” compilation span nearly two centuries of horse-drawn vehicle manufacture. Focusing on the specific farm, freight, ranch, coach, business, and military vehicles, Sneed is an avid writer and curator of thousands of artifacts. His research and articles have been published by the American Chuck Wagon Association, Santa Fe Trail Association, National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association, U.S. Dept. of the Interior/Arizona Bureau of Reclamation, MoDOT Archaeology Division, The Carriage Journal, Farm Collector, Wild West, and Driving Digest magazines, as well as his own Wheels That Won The West website and numerous other traditional and on-line publications.

The Wagon Show is also delighted to have the author of Wagons for Santa Fe Trade and award-winning historian, author, and musician Mark Lee Gardner as a speaker and judge. Gardner will present on "Windwagons." Gardner has appeared on the History Channel, PBS American Experience, ABC World News, AMC, the Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel, Encore Westerns Channel, Book TV, NPR's All Things Considered, Irish National Radio, and BBC Radio. He writes for both popular and scholarly audiences, having published with numerous periodicals and websites such as The Daily Beast, National Geographic History, American Heritage, Wild West, American Cowboy, True West, New Mexico Magazine, and Journal of the West. His op-eds have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on Fox News. Mark's previous books include the critically lauded "To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid" and "Pat Garrett and Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape." He is currently researching famed Lakota leaders Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull for a dual biography to be published by William Morrow/Harper Collins.

Katie Gardner, who is the great-great granddaughter of Malcom Conn, who was at one time the wealthiest trader in Council Grove, is scheduled to speak. Gardner is the former Assistant Curator of Material Culture at Colorado Historical Society.

She studied the Winterthur Program in early American Culture at Winterthur Museum and Gardens and at the University of Delaware. She also studied Art History at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Co. Conn built a stone trading post along the Santa Fe Trail in Council Grove in 1858. Although it has been modified, the building still stands today on the southeast corner of Neosho and West Main Street.

Leo Oliva, the leading expert on the Santa Fe Trail, will present a program on the history of the trail. Dr. Oliva became interested in frontier military history during the 1959 centennial celebration of the founding of Fort Larned and has been researching and writing about frontier military posts, western trails, and Indian-white relations ever since. A graduate of Fort Hays State University, he earned a Masters Degree in American History and a Ph.D. in American studies at the University of Denver.

He is the author of several books (including "Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail" in 1967 and six of the eight books in the Kansas Forts Network Series) and many articles about the frontier west and Kansas. He was editor of the Santa Fe Trail Association quarterly, Wagon Tracks, for 25 years and writes a weekly newspaper column on “Our Kansas Heritage.” He is a member of the Humanities Kansas Speakers’ Bureau. 

Don Werner, of Werner Wagon Works, is a skilled wagon maker and Wagonwright. He will be giving demonstrations on wheelwrighting and will also be a judge. Don Werner of Horton, Kansas, along with his wife, Connie, have been in the wagon building business for 24 years. When Don was a little boy his dad farmed with a wagon and he would ride in the back listening to the corn hit the bang boards. From this memory came the desire to build his own wagon and from that desire Werner Wagon Works was born. They have products in almost every state, Canada, and Japan. Besides building small buckboards and grand stagecoaches, the Werners also do restoration of horse drawn wagons. Don is a wheelwright and is able to build new wheels or restore old ones. The Werners are unique in that they build everything from the ground up. In the U.S. today there are only a handful of these craftsmen. Their vehicles are housed in museums and historical sites, used on living history farms and on ranches, have been selected to be in a historical presidential inauguration parade, have traveled a number of the historical trails and are used privately by individuals that love the era of these horse drawn conveyances.

Doug Hansen, Owner of Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop, will present on maintenance of a wagon on the Santa Fe Trail.

Doug started Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop in 1978. A craftsman and horseman with a background in wheelwrighting, blacksmithing and wainwrighting, Doug has also done extensive research and documentation on historic vehicles for museums and private collectors. 

The Santa Fe Trail Association will be attending and will have a booth at the Wagon Show. This event is co-sponsored by the City of Council Grove's Santa Fe Trail 200 Committee and the Kansas Historical Society.

For more information on Rendezvous at Council Grove or to register for the Wagon Show go to https://www.santafetrail200.com or contact Mark Brooks at brooks.mark.sharon@gmail.com or mark.brooks@ks.gov or call 785-466-1460 or 620-767-5410

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