LEEDS — If you’ve ever wondered what life in Leeds would have been like nearly 150 years ago, then head over to the Wild West Days in Leeds Friday and Saturday, where events and tours, conjure the days of the late 1870s, when silver mining was at its boom and folks raised Sorghum cane.
Before 1875, according to historical documents, geologists were unaware that silver could be found in sandstone. That is, until John Kemple discovered a vein of silver trapped in the buckled rocks around Silver Reef. Because of Kemple’s discovery, miners unearthed more than $10 million worth of silver from 1875-88. Though, by 1901, the excavation of silver dwindled and most of the residents had packed up and left town.
Today, Silver Reef exists as a ghost town luring tourists with its crumbling foundations and photographic charm. The town of Leeds will celebrate this history through an assortment of activities, vendors and programs.
The Wild West days will run Friday, from 5-11 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The event is held at various locations but is centralized behind Leeds’ Town Hall building, located at 218 N. Main Street.
Friday, Sept. 5
Beginning at 6 p.m., a group of award-winning square dancers will perform on stage, followed by a free square dance lesson for all who would like to participate.
Leeds’ history comes to life on stage in the form of a play at 8 p.m., followed by the Black Hawk and Friends concert.
Beginning at 10:30 p.m., an astronomy instructor will be identifying objects visible in the night sky, with the naked eye, and bringing equipment to enable audience members to get a closer look at the stars and other universal phenomena.
Saturday, Sept. 6
Oak Grove runs
At 5:30 a.m., a bus will shuttle runners from Leeds Town Hall to various starting points within the Pine Valley Ranger District of the Dixie National Forest. All running distances begin at 7 a.m. and finish near Leeds Town Hall. The entry fee for runners is $15 for the 5K and 10K, and $20 for the 15K.
Leeds 1 Mile Fun Run
Registration will be held from 6-6:45 a.m. at Leeds Marketplace, 545 N. Main Street. The run begins at 7 a.m. and the entry fee is $10.
Pony Express Race
Participant sign-in will begin at 8 a.m. for this timed race involving horses and mailbags. The race starts at 9 a.m., with an entry fee of $40 per team which includes two horses and two riders.
The Leeds Mayor’s Walk will step-off at 9 a.m. from Leeds Town Hall, located at 218 N. Main Street. The walk will include narration of Leeds’ history and pass the old Tithing House and the Leeds Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, before completing its loop at Wild West Days.
Fiddle and Hoedown Contest
The preliminary competition begins at 9 a.m. with finals held on the main stage at 6 p.m. Participant entry fee is $5 per person or $10 per group.
The Pine Mountain Bluegrass Band Concert begins at 2:30 p.m. on the main stage and the Rock n Horse Band Concert will begin at 7 p.m.
Tombstone Tours and Silver Reef Museum
Enjoy a guided tour cart ride from Town Hall to the old Silver Reef’s Roman Catholic and Protestant cemeteries and then on up to the Silver Reef Museum in the Wells Fargo Express building. Return transportation to Town Hall will be provided.
Wild West presentations
A black powder shooting exhibition and Butch Cassidy book signing will take place throughout the day in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant building located next door to the Silver Reef Museum.
Gary Dixon, a specialist in firearms of the old West, will discuss, demonstrate and display the guns used in the Wild West. Dixon will speak at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Bill Betenson, great grandson of Butch Cassidy’s sister, will discuss his book, “Butch Cassidy, My Uncle,” and describe his lifelong pursuit of the real story of Cassidy’s life. He will sign copies of his book after the lecture. Betenson presents at noon and 3 p.m.
Junior Miner Program
The Silver Reef Museum will provide a program for children at various times to learn what it was like to mine for silver in the late 1800s.
Take a half-mile walk from Leeds Town Hall to find a variety of Wild West Days inspired activities from various merchants.
Vendors providing food, trinkets and services will be available Friday, from 5-9 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., located behind Leeds Town Hall.
“We’d like to share Leeds’ history with people who refer to it as ‘the middle of nowhere,'” Leeds Mayor Wayne Peterson said. “Come see our part of the county.”
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