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History Exhibit Showcases Cowboy Capital’s Past
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The history exhibits created with painstaking attention to detail were on display Friday, June 25 at the Bianchi Community Center as part of Oakdale’s Sesquicentennial and All-American Bash festivities. The Friends of Oakdale Heritage volunteers spent weeks creating the exhibits for the event. KIM VAN METER/THE LEADER

In celebration of Oakdale’s Sesquicentennial and All-American Bash, the Friends of Oakdale Heritage organization spent weeks preparing a number of exhibits to create a walking tour of the city’s past. The historic display was staged at the Bianchi Center on Friday, June 25.

The exhibits were made from pieces currently housed at the Oakdale Museum and History Center at 212 W. F St., as well as some items donated from the Cowboy Museum, to create a fun, interesting, and ultimately educational tour all about Oakdale’s past.

Each exhibit was painstakingly researched and cross-referenced for accuracy by the FOH volunteers and represented countless hours of hard work behind the scenes.

Barbara Torres, FOH President, said, “I think it’s probably the most concise compilation of memorabilia, and information that we have researched fastidiously in preparing for this … The neat thing about Oakdale, is the fact that you have families that got here before 1900 and generations upon generations upon generations.”

Torres, much like all of the FOH volunteers, were happy to share their knowledge of the days-gone-by and how it all came together to create the town Oakdale is today.

Torres shared information about one such person who was ahead of his time when the west was wild and education wasn’t as structured as it is now.

“Oakdale was really lucky. We had some really forward thinking people. Professor McKinsey came, and he decided that, as early as 1888 that Oakdale needed education so he started the Normal school. What he did was, he offered classes to teach people how to teach kids.”

The exhibits set up at the Bianchi Center ranged from tax registers from 1907 to the first city ordinances trying to bring some sense of order to the wild west.

Susan Byars, FOH volunteer, manning one of the many exhibits, shared, “We’re hoping as we open that we can do more rotating exhibits, so that we have some more contemporary things so each time people visit the museum, they see something different.”

As COVID-19 restrictions lift and businesses return to normal, it’s the hope that the museum can start bringing people back to enjoy Oakdale’s colorful and interesting history.

“We want to not only have out-of-towners but we want people from the community to come in and see something different and we want the young kids to be able to see the contemporary history as well as history from longer ago.”

Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer, Trisha Brown, agreed that the exhibit was a great way to celebrate Oakdale’s rich history and encourage the next generation to get to know their town.

Brown said, “The main thing about this event is the importance in exploring our past and showing our youth what has happened before, so it teaches them where we’ve been, where we can be, and where we can grow to accomplish.”

Brown also praised how well the exhibits were arranged with easy-to-read displays, saying, “Everything is awesome.”

Attendees had the chance to stop at each exhibit and spend as much time as they wanted, with many volunteers on hand to answer questions and serve up some extra historical tidbits.

Moss Rose Bakery delivered the custom cake to the Bianchi Center as part of Oakdale’s Sesquicentennial and All-American Bash festivities, Friday, June 25. The cake took 16 hours to ice and had to be delivered by truck. The cake was later cut and served during the Friday evening event following the time capsule ceremony at the plaza outside the Community Center. KIM VAN METER/THE LEADER