Jason Vlcan’s job title at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is visitor information specialist. In the 14 years he’s been at the 16-year-old museum, he has also been a seasonal and temporary employee. Now his duties include overseeing the bookstore and volunteers, conducting school tours, maintenance and shoveling, just to name a few.
The trails center hosts its big family holiday celebration on Saturday and it’s all free. We chatted with Vlcan about this year’s Holiday on the Homestead.
What’s new at the homestead celebration? We have the Buffalo Basque Club coming down from Buffalo. They will be sharing their cultural history with us and that will include dancing and music as well. The live music will specifically be from 1 to 2 p.m. to close out the day. The Basques have not been here before. We try to do a cultural aspect to this event and bring in some different cultures. There will be eight Christmas trees decorated and some of them represent different cultures as well. The Basques will have one of the themed trees.
What else is happening that day? From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Anna, Rachel & Friends will play their pioneer music. Throughout the day, there will be cookie decorating and a Wyoming gingerbread house contest, ornament making, a visit with Seymour the Antelope, Pony Express members and their horses and lots more.
Tell us about the Prairie Sweet Shop. That’s one of everybody’s favorites. Some wonderful ladies will dress up in pioneer outfits they’ve made and melt chocolate in Dutch ovens and then dip pretzels and other goodies in the melted chocolate for everyone to try. That will be a place to smile and have a little treat. Some of these things like the Dutch oven cooking and the military encampment will be outside, but if it’s too cold and windy that day, we’ll try to bring them inside.
And the model trains will be back? Yes, and they are very popular. Members of the Casper Model Railroaders Association will set up and be open for Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout the month of December. And what some people may not realize, they run the trains and the public can see them and operate them, but they also take trains from people who need stuff fixed as well.
The bookstore will be open? Yes, and we have great holiday gifts for all ages — young, old, history buffs, people who love Wyoming — everyone can find something they like in there.
Tell us about the contest on Saturday. We are having a scavenger hunt during Holiday on the Homestead. They have to answer five questions displayed down in our galleries, and then they have a chance to win a variety of exciting items, including a family adventure package including board games and snacks. The title of the hunt is “Wyoming, beacon of the West,” and highlights Wyoming firsts.
After 14 years, what’s the best part of your job? Seeing the kids smile when they leave here after a tour, seeing that they’re excited about history and might want to learn more. We have about 2,500 to 4,000 students a year through here, most of them fourth graders, because here in Wyoming they still study Wyoming history in fourth grade.
And you do the pioneer trail treks? Yes, we do these each summer. Just the other day, a guy came in who had been on our pioneer grave site trek last summer. With tears in his eyes, he remembered that I take flowers out to put on the graves and asked why I did it, and I said that if I didn’t, nobody would.
(The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is operated by the Bureau of Land Management. It opened in 2002 and is a public-private partnership between the BLM, the National Historic Trails Center Foundation and the City of Casper.)