Chadron State Park turns 101, and park officials have planned several family-friendly activities for Saturday’s celebration.
Chadron State Park Assistant Superintendent Josh May said this year’s celebration includes a variety of events, food vendors and live entertainment.
Activities begin at 7 a.m. with the Run for the Hills race. Registration is from 7:15 a.m. to 7:55 a.m. and the race starts at 8:00 a.m.
Race director Donna Ritzen said this year’s course has been changed.
“The path is on the northwest side of the state park and it has some really good hills,” she said. “We lost a lot of volunteers so we had to change the layout of our course a bit.
“The half marathon runners will do four laps. We were trying to do a tour all over the park, but we just didn’t have enough volunteers, so we changed that.
The best finishers of the 5 km, 10 km and half marathon will receive a hat and a cup. Participation medals will be given to the participants of the half-marathon.
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“As with all trails, you might want to bring sunscreen and we’ll have some Deet,” Ritzen said. “There might be ticks there, so they might want to bring something for themselves for the ticks.”
Sunscreen, Deet and masks will be available upon registration. Participants can follow the signs to the registration kiosk, located in the northwest corner of the park, near the turnoff to the lookout.
Ritzen said the Twisted Crawdad mountain bike races were canceled due to lack of pre-registrations.
Park activities start at 9 a.m. with free paddle boat rides until 2 p.m. Life jackets are mandatory for anyone under 16 and adults must have life jackets in the boat as per Game and Parks rules.
Free kayak rides will also be available at the pond from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“It’s not on the flyer, but along with the paddle boat rides, kids and adults can try out a kayak if they’ve never done one,” May said.
Many exhibits and vendors will be set up in the park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Around the shooting range of the park, the activities are numerous. A bouncy house will be set up for children and a treasure hunt is planned. Naturalist activities will include an interactive animal exhibit with furs, skins and skulls on display. Wildlife exhibits will include big horn sheep skulls and mountain lion tracking tools. A blacksmith will demonstrate, bending horseshoes into unique shapes.
The public can also take part in shooting exercises at the shooting range.
“The shooting range opens at 10 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. it’s free shooting,” May said. “They can fire an archery round and a pellet gun round.”
The park limits people to one ride each to keep ammo costs down.
Also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a car, bike, and truck show is held behind the office.
Food vendors and a beer garden will be open all day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. They will be located near the tennis courts.
After having a bite to eat, the public can attend a canoe regatta, hosted by Chadron Kiwanis. Canoes and life jackets will be provided. Registration begins at 2 p.m. on the northwest side of the pond and races begin at 2:30 p.m.
“It’s a canoe race on the pond,” May said. “We are going to close our pedal boats and our kayaks so that no one is there, then they put a few floating milk jugs there. It’s side by side with two people in each canoe race at the same time.
The fastest team in each lap will advance until there is one team left standing.
May took part in the regatta, saying the event is fun.
“It’s quite funny,” he said. “We competed, but we didn’t pass our lap. It was not good. We had a few employees do this last year and they capsized their canoe.
Evening events begin with a 5 p.m. kids scavenger dive in the pool.
“We throw quarters, nickels, dimes and washers, so it’s like an Easter egg hunt, but underwater,” he said. “If the kids have a washing machine, they can make it one of the lifesavers for a price.”
The festivities culminate with a live musical performance by the Bar Flies at Sports Field from 7-10 p.m.
Visitors can park in any free space in the park on Saturday until 4 p.m. Visitors are asked to follow the parking signs at night. There will be a tram service to the pitch for the live concert.
May said: “The morning (tram service) will be just for fun. People can use it to move around. In the evening we will park the cars and use the trolley service to get people to and from the ballpark where the Bar Flies are located.
Chadron State Park activities are free and open to the public, however, a park pass is required. Daily passes in the state cost $6 or $30 for an annual pass. Out-of-state daily passes cost $12 and $60 for an annual pass.
For details on Saturday’s activities or to learn more about Nebraska’s first state park, visit outdoornebraska.gov/chadron/.