From 1963 to 1973 the Daniel Boone Wagon Train attracted enthusiastic pioneer “wannabes” to Northwest North Carolina for an exciting frontier experience. Each June, hundreds of folks brought their old, wood-spoke wheeled wagons pulled by horses, mules, and oxen and loaded them with meager provisions, excited families, and dreams of adventure. They traveled in a caravan for four days annually through the foothills of Wilkes County and over the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains to parade through the streets of the town in Watauga County named in honor of America’s pioneer hero, Daniel Boone. Part historical reenactment, part rolling, rollicking party, the expedition was full of wholesome entertainment with old time music, square dancing, and open-pit barbecued chicken served to the thousands of visitors who flocked to each night’s campsite in North Wilkesboro, Ferguson, Darby, Triplett, and Boone to join in the special experience. Newspaper reporters signed on as participants and shared their stories with readers far and wide in daily accounts.
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The Wagon Train began in 1963 as a celebration of North Carolina’s 300th birthday, the Carolina Charter Tercentenary, and then took on a life of its own, developing its own reputation and its own cast of colorful characters. During the ten years encompassing the annual events, the Sixties and early ’70s, America experienced a host of changes as social, economic, scientific, and political events swept through the country: the space race, assassinations, Beatlemania, civil rights demonstrations, race riots, the Viet Nam War, anti-war demonstrations, the Summer of Love, the moon landing, Woodstock, Watergate, and more. The reliable annual Daniel Boone Wagon Train was both a respite from and a marker of our collective journey through those challenging, turbulent, and memorable times 50 years ago.