Bridgeport residents, as well as visitors from surrounding areas, celebrated Camp Clarke Days “142 Years of Growth and Greatness” from Thursday, May 31, to Sunday, June 3. Multiple events were held during Camp Clarke Days including the Big and Famous Camp Clarke Parade, a fishing contest for children, truck and tractor pull, a softball tournament, sidewalk chalk drawing and more.
Camp Clarke Days celebrates Henry T. Clarke, who in 1875 was contracted to build a toll bridge across the North Platte River after gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This bridge allowed people to move their freight wagons and stagecoaches across the river right next to what is now the town of Bridgeport.
Saturday was the busiest day of Camp Clarke Days as the festivities started with a pancake feed at 7 a.m. and ended with the judging of the BBQ Beef Cook-Off, which started at 4 p.m.
The Big and Famous Camp Clarke Days Parade started at 11 a.m. with a large variety of floats from different businesses and organizations around the Panhandle.
Noah Connick said the Presbyterian Church float was his favorite. He and his brothers, Jesse, Tristan and Gavin all agreed that their favorite thing about the parade is the candy.
Nebraska State Patrol Troopers brought the Seat Belt Convincer to the Prairie Winds Community Center. Sgt. Brian Buxbaum said the State Patrol brings the Seat Belt Convincer to different programs in the area.
“The Seat Belt Convincer assists with public safety and the importance of wearing seat belts,” Buxbaum said.
The machine allows people to sit in a simulated crash of about 3-5 miles per hour.
“It’s one of our many tools to educate young kids on how important it is to buckle up. The impact is pretty hard, even though it is only 5 miles per hour, it’s a hard hit,” Buxbaum said.
Riley Klein, 8, had the opportunity to ride on the Seat Belt Convincer and said it was awesome.
“It showed me that I always need to use my seat belt,” Klein said.
Ten competitors joined the horseshoe tournament, which was held during Camp Clarke Days on Saturday, June 2. Competitor Dan Smith said he joined the tournament because he is also a part of the league in Bridgeport.
“It’s just a lot of good people having a good time,” Smith said.
The annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament was also held and had eight teams competing. Simon Perez has organized the event for over ten years and also organizes the tournament in Scottsbluff during Oregon Trail Days.
“We have had great sponsors throughout the years and have great support from local businesses,” Perez said.
One of the final events of the day was the frog, turtle and toad race at the Prairie Winds Community Center, organized by Kevin Myers who got the idea from Broadwater Days. Participants must bring their own toad, frog or turtle to race, although some bring extras for those who weren’t able to catch one.