Residents of Panaca and community members from all over the county gathered together to celebrate the pioneers who settled the area and paved the way for the Lincoln County known today.
One small correction from the previous article on the subject: the Lee family and company did not approach the area from the summit, but came through the valleys and hills just south of what would one day be Panaca, coming from the direction of Enterprise, Utah. But the feeling must have been the same, as the long stretch of fertile valley spread out before them would have been a welcome sight.
This feeling of expansion and settlement eventually made way for the railroads and mines that would come to populate the area. There was a dispute as to whether or not Panaca was in Utah or Nevada, but even after the town was confirmed to be a part of the Silver State, they continued to celebrate the day that settlers entered the Salt Lake Valley, establishing one of the largest cities in the west at the time.
For most people, the day started out quietly, with the exception of the more than 30 people that participated in the Lincoln County High School (LCHS) junior class fundraiser 5K just outside of town. However, that relative peace was interrupted by the 6 a.m. dynamite wake-up, which was not, in fact, accomplished using dynamite. This year, loud concussive fireworks signaled the beginning of the celebrations, and invited everyone within earshot to the flag ceremony at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building.
While the celebration itself is not a nationally recognized patriotic holiday, its connection to the spread of settlers across the west, and its association with home and local pride helps solidify the connection to the nation that made all of those things possible.
After the flag was raised and the bell was rung at the old church, breakfast was served. The classic fare of eggs, sausage and pancakes was plenty to energize the community for the rest of the activities of the day.
Following the hearty meal next to the church, the Panaca Elementary yard played host to the kids’ races, where kids and adults could participate in regular foot races, wheelbarrow races, and much more. Children were rewarded for their participation with a quarter, many of which ended up being spent at the Panaca Market around the corner. Alongside this, the Panaca Heritage Museum opened its doors, showing off antique toys, tools and historic records from the time of the early settlers all the way up until the present. The building itself is part of the town’s history, opening as the Wadsworth General Store.
There was a short lull in the action as people ate lunch, after which the Panaca Fire Department hosted a money scramble at the LCHS parking lot. As the fire trucks and firefighters soaked everything, kids could jump into the spray to collect the change that was being tossed into the deluge. Little kids were the first to brave the sprinklers, followed by the older kids, some of which collected more than ten dollars in change.
After another break, people began to line the main street with chairs and cars in preparation for the parade. The cloud cover made the afternoon experience a little less hot. Parade floats included representatives from the Nevada State Parks, the Panaca Market and even the Primary Program of the Panaca Second Ward. Among them was the Mathews family’s float. They brought in dozens of members of the clan from far and wide to celebrate with the town.
Later in the evening, dinner was served on the lawn of the church. Baked beans, chicken, rolls and salad were part of the offering, and many kids wandered over to the elementary school grounds to play while their parents visited. On the lawn of Meadow Valley Middle School, more activities were set up, from classes on how to make rag dolls, gigantic bubble making and even a long row of cornhole matches.
Finally, the end of the night came and the LCHS football field was slowly populated with hundreds of onlookers as the fireworks demonstration began. Many in the crowd were shocked by the sheer amount and quality of the fireworks on display, including a huge finale that lit up the sky like it was daytime. And with the firing of the final firework, the Pioneer Day celebrations came to a close.