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Holiday on the Homestead

Maylin Groenewald, 11, left, and her sister, Darbie Neuman, 6, try frontier soldier cooking with Nick Skalicky last year at the Holiday on the Homestead event at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.

The National Historic Trails Center celebrates the holiday season with family-friendly events spotlighting Wyoming’s heritage. Visitors can make take-home holiday decorations, try tasty treats, play with model train sets and even win prizes. Daily admission and all events are free, and visitors are welcome to drop off nonperishable food donations for Wyoming Food for Thought throughout December.

The festivities begin 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8 with the annual Holiday on the Homestead, this year themed “Wyoming: Beacon of the West.”

Visitors can drop by any time for treats, crafts and to meet pioneers, frontier soldiers, Pony Express riders and other characters out of Wyoming’s past portrayed by historical groups and living historians inside the museum — and out on the grounds if weather permits.

“It’s all geared and oriented towards families just getting out and doing something as a family,” visitor information specialist Jason Vlcan said. “They’re able to take some things home with them if they want to.”

Visitors can catch a performance of pioneer music with Ana, Rachel & Friends from 10:30-11:30 a.m. The Big Horn Basque Club from Buffalo will showcase Basque culture with music, dancing and history from 1-2 p.m. Many Basque people arrived during Wyoming’s early days to herd sheep, Vlcan said.

Kids can enter a drawing for prizes by completing a scavenger hunt through the museum galleries during the event. They’ll learn about Wyoming’s “firsts” — like the first national forest or the fastest ungulate in the world — and fill out a sheet of five answers to enter the drawing.

For a Wyoming-themed gingerbread contest competitors can drop off their creations until 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Anything that represents Wyoming — wagons, animals, mountains, trains, landmarks, cabins and even people – are welcome, according to the gingerbread contest event Facebook page. Prizes will be awarded in different age groups.

People of all ages can flex their creative muscles as they decorate cookies and create ornaments, paper lanterns and snowflakes to take home. Pioneers at the Prairie Sweet Shop will melt chocolates in Dutch ovens.

“They’ll be dipping pretzels and vanilla wafers and Oreo cookies in the chocolates and making delightful treats for everybody,” Vlcan said.

Bureau of Land Management mascot Seymour the pronghorn antelope will be around to greet people.

“He has a handler, and the handler shares and tells the story of the Bureau of Land Management, about being good stewards of the land,” Vlcan said.

Holiday fun continues 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 with a cookie wagon building workshop and pioneer photo booth. Participants can use cookies, frosting and marshmallows to create covered wagons drawn by animal cracker creatures. Visitors can dress up in pioneer clothing at the photo booth and take their own photos.

Adding to the holiday spirit are several Christmas trees on display through the museum decked in themes, including a tree featuring the culture of Hungary, a tree of Basque ornaments and a tree with photos of the museum’s volunteers through the years.

For more fun for all ages, visitors can explore Wyoming’s railroad history and operate model trains at the Central Wyoming Model Railroad Association’s annual show.

The model train exhibition is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. December 6-8, 13-15, 19-22 and 26-29.

This year’s show, “State of Wyoming: Railroad Territory” features historic memorabilia and train sets made generations ago. The show includes raffles, including a drawing for a lifelike model railroad, along with beginner train sets and Lego puzzles for sale and as prizes.

The club members will be on hand to show people their trains and offer a wealth of knowledge about repairs and restorations as well. People can even bring in their own model train pieces for advice and information, Vlcan said.

“That’s a great opportunity,” Vlcan said, “when school gets out for kids, to come up here with their family and friends and grandmas and grandpas and spend an hour or two, play with the trains and hang out — all for free.”

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Star-Tribune reporter Elysia Conner covers arts, culture and the Casper community.

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