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Perhaps, if you are one of TRAVELER'S more venerable readers, you will remember the year 1896. Perhaps, during that year, you happened to be in Sheboygan. At South Side Bluff to be specific. On a Monday – say the 31st – in August.
If that's the case, you need read no further. TRAVELER cannot help you this month. Should you attend the event about to be elaborated upon, it would simply be another case of been there, done that.
Now. If you weren't around in 1896, you are undoubtedly a young whippersnapper (just what is a whippersnapper, anyway?). High-strung youth such as yourself are often in need of reminders about the past, lest they forget that they did not invent rip-roaring rollicking good times. Yes, kid, folks were whooping it up way back in 1896 and lucky for you, some of that fun is coming back around 100 years later.
Make your way to Greenbush on the weekend of June 29th and 30th, when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show will ride into the outdoor arena of the Wade House Stagecoach Inn, with guns blazing and ladies swooning right and left.
A century ago Bill & Co. wowed the Sheboygan County locals with fabulous displays of trick riding, shooting, and lariat work. His Congress of Rough Riders of the World enacted a stagecoach hold-up and a U.S. cavalry charge, leavening the drama with rustic comedians and the high kicks of can-can dancers. For civilized Wisconsin, it was a taste of the untamed world of cowboys and Indians that lay beyond the wide Missouri. Former frontier scout William Frederick Cody knew that world was fast disappearing in the wake of railroads and settlers. A shrewd entrepreneur, Cody also detected nostalgia collecting around the idea of the Wild West. Thus his famous traveling show was born.
Today the Friends of the Wade House will follow in Bill's hoofprints. Expect to see astounding feats of horsemanship and marksmanship in the 210 x 180-foot Wade House corral decked with larger-than-life banners of Miss Annie Oakley and other notables. (Traveler's tip: Don't stand near the spittoon by the gate.) The two-hour show features the lively musical accompaniment of the Wild West Band, know in its more staid moments as the Sheboygan Heritage Band.
You can't have a show without sideshows, and there will be excitement aplenty at the 1896 Country Fair on the Wade House grounds. Nothing you'd need to shield the youngster's eyes from, you understand – only wholesome thrills allowed. At this writing the Friends are working up a recipe for cowboy stew, which they hope to serve as an authentic taste of the West. (There may not, however, be enough beans in the county to guarantee a steady supply.)
1996 is the 150th anniversary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society and Buffalo Bill's birthday. Celebrate both at the Wade House Wild West Show!
The Wade House was built in 1850 by Sylvanus and Betsey Wade to provide food and shelter for travelers on the busy Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Plank Road. Today, the State Historical Society owns and operates the handsome Greek Revival-style inn, which is outfitted with authentic furnishings. Costumed guides conduct tours of the inn and the smokehouse, blacksmith shop and other buildings on the grounds. The site includes the Wesley W. Jung Carriage Museum, housing over 100 horse-drawn vehicles. The Wade House State Historic Site is located six miles west of Plymouth just off State Highway 23 in Greenbush, Sheboygan County. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm from May 1 through October 31. Admission: $5 adults, $4.50 seniors, $2 children 5-12. Admission during the Wild West Show increases to $7 adults, $6 seniors, $4 children 5-12.
While you're in the area...
From Greenbush, you can wander into the Ice Age through the Kettle Moraine State Forest (Northern Unit). About three miles south of the village on County Hwy T, you'll pass the Greenbush Kettle. This fine example of a glacier's signature was formed when gravel settled over a massive, melting ice block. Two miles south of the kettle, on County Hwy A, you'll find the Parnell Observation Tower. From here you'll get a good view of the Parnell Esker, a winding ridge that likely marks an old stream channel trapped underneath an ice sheet. A foot trail follows the ridge if you prefer the worm's-eye view.
Just north of Greenbush, the vast Sheboygan Marsh County Park and State Wildlife Area spreads across the landscape. Small unpaved roads and trails lead into the marsh in several places. Hike in and don't forget your binoculars!