New Franklin’s Santa Fe Trail Days run from Friday to Sunday, celebrating the town’s role in shaping westward expansion.
William Becknell and a group of traders left Franklin, Missouri in September 1821, making their way through prairie, mountain and desert to what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Santa Fe Trail that crew blazed was the major overland trade route that connected traders from the U.S. and newly-independent Mexico in the early 19th century. It was later the route the U.S. Army took to invade Mexico, and then became an important route to the newly-annexed southwestern U.S.
New Franklin commemorates Becknell's journey with a two-day festival, complete with historical reenactors, crafts, music and a parade. While the festival is a nod to the history of the area, it’s really for children, said Amanda Gunn, secretary and treasurer of the organizing committee.
New Franklin High School students run the activities and concessions during the festival to help them learn to deal with money, serve food and interact with people face-to-face — something they may not be doing as much in the electronic age, she said.
The proceeds from the festival also go to the New Franklin schools to help pay for senior year activities like the senior prom, Gunn said. Sponsors help the committee run the festival — Gunn said the festival wouldn’t be possible without them — and the proceeds go to the schools. Last year, the festival was able to raise about $5,000, Gunn said.
“Anything that’s earned, we try to give back,” she said.
New Franklin has a few big events every year that bring a lot of people out, including the annual wine stroll and beer garden. Santa Fe Trail Days are special because they’re something the whole family can enjoy. The reason the committee has worked so hard to put it together is that they loved the festival when they were kids, and want their own kids to have the same experience, Gunn said.
There will be a beer garden on Friday and Saturday, but the festival is packed with activities for children and teens. Friday evening features a pedal pull, bounce houses and a teen dance.
Saturday starts with the baby contest, followed by a historical reenactment of a generic, early 19th-century battle, a magic show, dunk tank and animal show.
The centerpiece of Saturday is the parade that starts from the New Franklin R-1 Schools building, heads east down Broadway, then loops around and heads back to the school. It will feature a Conestoga wagon like those that would have carried freight from Franklin to Santa Fe 200 years ago, Gunn said.
The festival will also feature food vendors and plenty of crafts. Crafts sold out at the festival last year, so the committee made sure to have plenty available this year, Gunn said.