GOLD HILL — Fans of Gold Hill's popular annual Gold Dust Day shindig that pays homage to the town's gold-mining days will find some fun new activities depicting the town "then and now."
This year's event starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the Gold Dust Parade that kicks things off will be the largest to date, offering a nod to the town's efforts to become a whitewater destination while holding strong to its gold-mining roots.
The parade will still step off from Patrick Elementary School, 1500 Second Ave., with a lineup that will include some fun additions from Sawyer Paddles and Oars owner Pete Newport.
Newport, this year's announcer for the parade, said to expect boats in every form and fashion. Boats will be pulled by livestock and tractors, goats will drag kayaks down the road, horse-drawn carriages will be equipped with river rafts, and Rogue Rafting will attempt to create the highest boat stack ever.
There will also be rafts attached to tiny cars, kinetic floating structures and even vans decked out with — "surprise," Newport says — more boats.
Following the parade, anybody interested in some river fun can take a float from the city sports park down to Valley of the Rogue State Park — a two-hour float.
Newport said the river element would be a fun addition to the festivities and a nice way to get more people involved. Spectators who want to peek at the floating masses can head over to Lampman Park or Rock Point Bridge.
"We're bringing some new blood into the Gold Dust Day parade," Newport said. "We're just going to go have fun, be silly and come back and close down Lucky's (Saloon). This will be a great way to make sure that everybody realizes it's the coolest little river town in the world."
Another change this year is the date. The festival has been held the first Saturday in June for decades, but the second Saturday is the new normal.
Other activities will include a slew of offerings at the Gold Hill Museum, the event's official host, with gold-panning lessons, old tractors, gunfights in the downtown and even some games involving cow-patty tossing.
The gunfights, courtesy of the State of Jefferson Vigilance Committee, will feature someone dying every hour, said event coordinator Janet Session.
"These are professional stunt men and actors. It's a great show. We're really excited to add this to Gold Dust. They'll have their old O.K. Corral — and their saloon girls, of course," Session said.
An annual favorite for the kids is the haystack scramble, which features children shuffling through scattered hay bales for shiny coins.
For tuckered-out Gold Dust Day attendees, a two-mule shuttle will drive people from one end of the square-mile town to the other.
"We'll have a lot for everyone to do like we always do. Some new stuff, but all the old favorites," said Session. "We hope to continue to grow this event every year. It's important for us to do this for the town."
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at email@example.com