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As a variety of programs have expanded throughout the Wyoming State Park and Historic Site system in recent years, some of the oldest events have proven to be as popular as ever.

One such event is South Pass City State Historic Site’s Gold Rush Days. Begun in 2001 by then-Superintendent Tom Lindmier, Gold Rush Days has been held every year since except during the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic.

This year’s event will be held July 8-9, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on both days. There is a special admission price of $5.

Gold Rush Days transports the visitor back in time to the late 1800s where activities like gold panning, Carissa Mine tours and South Pass City itself provide a glimpse of the olden days.

A few staples of the event like the vintage base ball (yes, two words) tournament and anvil blast are still featured and remain highly popular.

The vintage base ball tournament pits teams from local communities – Hudson, South Pass City, Riverton and Lander – using 1906 rules, equipment and uniforms. Try wearing a heavy wool uniform in the searing July heat. You won’t see any millionaire prima donnas in this base ball (again, 1906 spelling) tournament but it still proves to be entertaining.

The anvil blast is another highly popular part of Gold Rush Days and happens every hour on the hour.

So, what exactly is an anvil blast? A celebratory event from the 1880s and 1890s, two anvils are placed upside down on top of each other. A foundry hole in an anvil is filled with gun powder. The gun powder is ignited using a dynamite fuse and the resulting explosion sends an anvil several stories into the air making a sound much like a bell.

“We’d probably get hung if we ever discontinued the anvil blast,” current Superintendent Joe Ellis said.

Gold Rush Days has become a popular regional event with approximately 80 percent of those attending coming from not only Lander and Riverton but Rock Springs, Green River, Pinedale and Casper.

“We’ve had to evolve some so we didn’t get stagnant,” Ellis said. “We’ve incorporated some historic reenactments and activities that center around immigrant trails and mining.”

Part of Gold Rush Days evolution was changing the date of the event. During the early years, the celebration was held in late July. It was decided to move the event to the first weekend after the Fourth of July so as not to compete with Cheyenne Frontier Days. That move has proven to be beneficial, according to Ellis.

This year, in addition to a blacksmith, reenactors from around the country will provide exhibitions of the pony express, pack mules trips and Conestoga wagons. Additionally, a Shoshone basket maker from Nevada will show his skills.

“We try to bring in something new every couple of years,” Ellis said.

In addition, to the historical and educational offerings, Gold Rush Days will have six local bands and food vendors on hand.

What began as an occasion to showcase a vintage base ball tournament has blossomed into a family-friendly, fun, educational event that basically has something for everyone.

South Pass City is located 37 miles southwest of Lander on Hwy. 28.--

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