Almost eight years ago, a group of history and equestrian aficionados gathered together to host a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show re-enactment at JR Smith Park in Sunbury as part of Ohio’s bicentennial celebration.
Various members of that group resurrected the show several times during subsequent years, and last Saturday they gathered once again at JR Smith Park to perform the show as a part of Sunbury’s 2016 bicentennial celebration.
Many cast members have left the show, while new members have signed on – just like the original show that started in 1883 in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1899, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West covered more than 11,000 miles in 200 days, giving 341 performances in 132 cities and towns across the United States. In most places, there would be a parade and two two-hour performances. Then the whole show would be struck, loaded and moved overnight to the next town.
Cody’s show went bankrupt and ended in 1913, but one of its stops during the years it was active was in Sunbury. The show was put on at the community playground – known today as JR Smith Park; and some cast members stayed at the Hopkins House, today’s Myers Inn Museum.
Some of this year’s adult riders and re-enactors were children back in 2005, but several notable original cast members were still in the saddle, like Gerald Payton as Chief Sitting Bull.
Payton’s outfit was a historically correct deerskin jacket and chaps. Gerald’s wife, Sharon, who portrayed Mrs. Sitting Bull, hand-made the deerskin outfit from deer that Payton harvested well over a decade ago.
Payton’s granddaughter, Katherina, joined the show this year. Katherina portrayed a “Buffalo Gal,” riding bareback on a horse born and raised on the Payton spread.
Debbie Shatzer, who portrayed Annie Oakley in the 2008 re-enactment, returned as the lady sharpshooter.
Rick Williams portrayed Lt. Gen. George Armstrong Custer.
Williams has been to re-enactments at the Hardin, Montana, Little Big Horn Battlefield where he also portrayed the unlucky general, who just happened to be an Ohio native. Custer, a West Point graduate, was born Dec. 5, 1839, in New Rumley, Ohio.
Terry Glassford played Buffalo Bill (Tanner Sparks was Buffalo Bill at age 12); Cassie Glassford was Calamity Jane and a Pony Express rider. Henry Shaw and Rick Helwig portrayed Civil War soldiers; Bill Comisford played Wild Bill Hitchcock and participated as a doomed soldier during a re-enactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn – the loudest moment of the day with lots of blank gunfire.
The Corzatt family was there from Cowboy Perseverance Ranch – Cam, Tanya, and Rob – riding and helping children rope a pretend steer for medals and ribbons.
Suzanne Allen, who wrote the show’s script and rode as a standard-bearer during a pre-show parade through Sunbury, said that, despite a hot sun bearing down on the crowd, re-enactors and horses, the show came off as planned.
“This version of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a success,” Allen said. “We were worried a week before when the extended forecast said it might rain, but the weather cooperated and everyone seemed to enjoy the show.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093