Town went bold and ambitious when it turned 100
Prineville, Central Oregon's oldest city, has had many milestones to celebrate since its inception in 1868, and this August marks Prineville's 150-year birthday.
Moving forward, it's always good to reflect on where we've been — and 50 years ago, Prineville residents celebrated the 100-year mark with a series of events. The year — 1968 — was more than just one main event to mark Prineville's 100th, it was a series of memorable festivities.
The Central Oregonian has a complete collection of newspapers for every issue, dating back as far as 1900. These valuable resources give a detailed showcase of Prineville history as it has evolved for more than 100 years. Looking back at 1968 tells a fascinating story of the people and events as they unfolded.
Prineville Centennial — Timeline of events
The original committee that formed to begin the planning was The Prineville Centennial Committee. This group met to elect officers and begin the process on Jan. 18, 1968. The presiding officers were Elsie Miksche and Frances Juris. Gail Ontko was elected chair, with Harold Gray as the treasurer. This nonprofit group began an elaborate process that stretched into the end of August in 1968.
The first event held to kick off the celebration in January was a benefit centennial dance, featuring square dancing with square dance dress. The Sage Brush Shufflers, who mixed with the crowd and guided beginners in the dance patterns, were a newly formed group in 1967. The caller was Roy Tuttle, and the dance was held at the Lookout Mountain Grange, with a midnight potluck.
In February, a fulltime manager for the Centennial Committee was approved, since the planning had become too cumbersome for the few members of the committee. Al Learman, of Portland, was selected and came on board later in May of that year.
Next on the agenda was a Miss Centennial Pageant, hosted by the Prineville-Crook County Jaycees. The event was held in March, and the contestants were sponsored by local businesses of the community. The winner of the pageant represented the community in the Miss Oregon Pageant at Seaside — and the guidelines were governed in the by-laws of the Miss America Pageant. (The winner was not found in the archives).
Also in March, part of the Centennial delegation went to Salem to meet with Gov. Tom McCall to discuss the upcoming Prineville cCentennial festivities and invite him to the main event. McCall had spent some of his childhood growing up in Crook County and shared roots in the community. Their invitation was successful, and he later attended the dedication of Prine-Village.
In April, Juris was elected chairperson, and Bob Reynolds was designated the fundraising chairman. The committee moved on in the planning, with a wagon train ride in the works. John Sharp oversaw this part of the festivities and was designated wagon master. It cost $25 a head for a wagon train ride — complete with old-fashioned food, hoedown music in the evenings, and "Indian attacks" on the trail.
In April, the schools also presented Centennial plays. Young and old alike got into the spirit of the celebrations, and the Crook County Cowbells created a cookbook in honor of Prineville's 100th birthday — which was later presented to Trisha and Julie Nixon and Davvid Eisenhower, who was the campaign manager for presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the centennial was Prine-Village. It was a reconstruction from original buildings in Prineville in 1868 and was furnished with antiques and displays of that time. The location was the current site of Pioneer Park on Third and Elm streets.
The project took several weeks of planning and construction, and current Powell Butte resident Nancy Knoche recalled the time with fondness and clarity.
"It was a fun time," remembers Knoche. "All spring — and into fall — there was something going on."
She indicated that Prine-Village was a miniature town, and the local residents — including business owners, ranchers and farmers — all gave of their time to build the village. It also included an outdoor museum with machinery, stagecoaches and animals.
"There was a boardwalk and shops. John Sharp had a demonstration with his sourdough biscuits," added Knoche.
Prine-Village was completed and dedicated in early June, and Gov. McCall made a speech and placed a time capsule previously made by the residents — into a concrete vault.
During this busy time of planning, Knoche also pointed out that a group of women formed what was referred to as Pioneer Granddaughters Association. They were selected from families of Prineville pioneers who had deep roots in Crook County. They dressed in pioneer dress and attended smaller parades in Oregon to announce the Prineville centennial.
In August, the string of festivities was concluded with a pageant and a style show. The pageant was "Thunder in the Ochocos" and featured a cast of more than 200 local men, women and children in old-fashioned costumes. The attendance topped more than 2,000 spectators each performance, and more than 4,500 people in attendance altogether. It was located at the current outdoor arena at the Crook County Fairgrounds.
The final event was a style show dubbed "Styles through the Ages." There was $15,000 worth of costumes and antiques, ranging from Roman times to current day (in 1968), with a cast of more than 100 participants. Learman earned his keep with these two events, helping to organize and facilitate some very successful outcomes and memories.
What will Prineville's 200th birthday look like? Only time will tell.