Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

T raveling holiday visitors came home to Baker City for Thanksgiving and many spent the next day at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center where children and their parents — and in many cases, grandparents — gained firsthand knowledge of pioneer life.

Sunshine and a beautiful view of the Elkhorn Mountains greeted the visitors who came — according to license plates in the parking lot — from Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho and Utah. One family traveled all the way from Michigan.

Amanda Ward brought her family home to Baker City to visit her mother, Mary Schoenfeld. Amanda and her husband, Bart Ward, live in Detroit, Michigan, where they serve in the Air National Guard.

Amanda said she and Bart met in Hatar, Iran, while both were serving in the Air Force. After they married, they made their home in Michigan, where Bart was from. An annual Thanksgiving trip back to Baker City has become a family tradition.

The couple brought their three children to the Center on Friday. Their 4-year-old son, Jameson, and 6-year-old twins, Theodore and Camille, found plenty of room to explore.

“This is fun. They can run around,” Amanda said.

Rachael Nickens, a Trail Center employee, provided lessons about ingredients used to make hardtack biscuits and provided samples of the food supply the pioneers carried with them.

At another station, children got the chance to construct their own rag dolls, the only dolls — and one of the few simple toys — children were able to take along on their Oregon Trail trip, said Cheri Garver, another Trail Center employee.

Garver guided children, and even some parents, through the process of tying strips of cloth together to form a little doll.

Christina Alvarez made a doll for her 1-month-old daughter, Arlene.

“She’s a little too young to do one on her own,” Garver said with a laugh as the baby slept in a stroller parked beside her mother.

Christina and her husband, Jose Alvarez, traveled from Hillsboro with their family, which also includes daughter, Lesley, 8, and their 2-year-old son, Nathaniel, to visit Christina’s grandparents, Bob and Marilyn Cummings, at their home in Baker City.

“We make it over as much as we can,” Christina said. “Sometimes it’s Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas.”

See more in the Nov. 27, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.

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