PHOTO GALLERY: Thousands attend Trappers Rendezvous at West Park

Roger Darrow of Newton, center, speaks as Jedediah Smith, a historical trapper and explorer, during the Boy Scout Trappers Rendezvous on Saturday at West Park in rural Harvey County. Darrow was in charge of the event. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

Newton resident Roger Darrow dressed as trapper and explorer Jedediah Smith with a fur hat on Saturday during the Boy Scout Trappers Rendezvous at Harvey County West Park, telling those who stopped by about Smith’s life and giving them wooden tokens with Smith’s name on them.

“When I was your age, about all I wanted to do was stay outside,” Darrow said, portraying Smith to a group of Scouts. “I was attacked and wounded by a bear. The bear grabbed my hair and ripped off my scalp. It was hanging off here.”

Darrow said the people with Smith flipped his scalp back and stitched it onto his head, hair and all.

“He lived,” Darrow said. “It was a miracle.”

Darrow also told those gathered Smith was religious and carried a Bible and he didn’t drink or cuss.

Smith was born in 1799 and died in 1831.

During the Trappers Rendezvous every year, West Park turns into a tent city. This year, about 5,000 people attended.

“It’s actually a lot of fun,” said Darrow, stepping out of the Smith character and into himself as vice president of programming for the Boy Scout Quivera Council.

Darrow said he was responsible for planning the event.

“There aren’t a lot of winter camping events. This is a re-enactment of a [trapper] rendezvous. The scouts—money is not allowed. It’s a trading event and they learn about cold weather camping.”

One of the unique features of the event, Darrow said, were the 14 re-enactors wandering around the event, telling their stories to those who would listen.

He said there were 4,300 pre-registered and probably more who had arrived that day coming from 11 states and seven Boy Scout councils.

Todd Wedel, warming himself by the fire at the Newton Troop 127 camping area, talked about the event.

“It’s hosted by the White Buffalo District,” the Troop 127 scoutmaster said. “It’s a Quivera Council event. They’ve been coming up here since, I think, the early ’80s, and it has just steadily grown and increased in size.”

He said there were 25 kids from Troop 127 there.

“These kids really look forward to the event,” Wedel said. “They enjoy the trading. This year, the majority of the scouts are out here.”

The trading there is huge, he said. There were many, many scouts lining the main road with trading areas and their wares displayed. They trade a variety of items, from animal furs to pocket knives to games—anything a kid would trade, Wedel said. He even saw an outboard motor there. Wedel said one scout had an aviator’s headset on, complete with microphone and he was trading it for a large oxygen tank.

“It does seem like they make a game out of who can bring the craziest thing back,” said Rodd Fuller, assistant scout master to Troop 127.

In addition to trading, scouts also collected the wooden coins from the re-enactors and they got prizes if they heard all the stories and had all their coins.

There also were activities for scouts, including BB gun shooting, archery, tomahawk throwing, black-powder shooting, craft areas and sawing. In one area, scouts, under the direction of adults, made medallions, designing their own.

One scout, JaCoby Wells, who was hanging out at the Hesston Troop 303 area, was excited about the event.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s nice to meet other local troops and troops from other places.”

One area, called Ark River Trading, gave away food, which included apple cider heated up over an open fire and Indian fry bread.

“We like to camp and it gives the boys a time for camaraderie,” Wedel said. “That’s why they like it. They get to hang out and mess around.”