Wearing patriotic colors, members of the Prairie Duster Drill Team from Phillipsburg each carried a pole and a U.S. flag while riding their horses at the 39th annual Logan Labor Day celebration Sunday.
“It’s really how we show our patriotism,” said Hollie Kendall, president and a 29-year member. She began participating at age 13.
Performing to popular music, the horses twisted, turned and walked in unison before the crowd on a hot afternoon. Each rider was dressed in full uniform with chaps of red, white and blue.
For 30 years, the Prairie Duster and their mounts have met each week during summer months for several hours to practice, to connect with their horses and with friends, and to learn skills — which they then share at rodeos and celebrations across Kansas and Nebraska.
“We love to (perform) close to home,” Kendall said. “There are so many familiar faces and a big fan base.
“It is hot. But we are cowgirls, so we’re used to that.”
At Logan, something special the team does is to give horseback rides to children before performing. The group performs each Labor Day weekend there, and they want to give children who have never had the opportunity to sit or ride a horse that opportunity, Kendall said.
After the show, audience members are allowed to talk to riders and pet the horses. The group works on safety so the horses are used to people and don’t spook easily, she said.
There’s a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare for a performance. The horse’s hooves have to be kept trimmed and kept moist to avoid cracking. The tack must be kept oiled and in good condition.
Overall, the drill team is good for rider and horse, Kendall said.
“It makes me have set-aside time to spend with my horse,” she said. “You grow up, and you get into life and things come up. If you don’t set the time aside, it gets pushed back.”
The group doesn’t charge when they perform, but takes a donation. Occasionally, a guy performs with the group, but generally it’s all female. Membership is by tryout.
Riding for her first year with Prairie Dusters, Alicia Hrabe participated in barrel racing before starting with the group.
“It has been a blast,” she said. “It’s kind of like a big family. You get to meet a lot of new people.“
Although Hrabe’s horse had experience with barrel racing, the formations took some practice.
“With all of the things we do, you’ve got to trust your horse, especially while we’re holding the flag while the winds blowing,” she said.
Audience members enjoyed the show.
“They’re fantastic,” said Wanda Schneider, Prairie View. “We enjoy it every time.”
She and her husband, Wayne, try to come every year to Logan for Labor Day. They enjoy all the activities in the dirt, wind and heat of Kansas, Wanda said laughing.
Nova Bates, director of the event, thought the day had gone well. The day was full of events beginning with a remote control airplane fly-in, a concert, Koshare Indian dancers, a car show, the Prairie Dusters and fireworks.
“It’s an annual event that people that are from this area come back to,” Bates said.
The fancy footwork of the Koshare Indian Dancers and members of Boy Scout Troop No. 232 entertained the crowd for more than an hour, performing authentic dances of the Sioux, Kiowa and Navajo. Started in 1933, the group wears colorful robes, moccasins and feathers.
The crowd was especially appreciative of the rain dance, which seemed to work as cloud formations began to roll in and sudden wisps of cooler breezes began to drift across the golf course.
The Boy Scouts seemed to soar with the Prayer to the Eagle dance, learned from the Hopi Indians, the Shield Dance learned from the Kiowa, and the Jingle Dress Dance done by the Medicine Man for those in need of healing.
In 1996, girls joined the Boy Scout troop, which travels from coast to coast and is based in La Junta, Colo.