Phil Sheridan Days returns to its former name
However, for more than 60 years — 1934 to 1995 — the event was known as Phil Sheridan Days. The celebration was named for a career U.S. Army officer stationed in the area before going on to become a celebrated Civil War general.
In a return to its past, Phil Sheridan Days will be held Thursday, June 20, through Sunday, June 23. But not without a sharply worded rebuke from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which is asking organizers to reconsider on the grounds that Sheridan’s contempt for Native Americans was well-documented.
The event was launched by a group of horse and rodeo enthusiasts. It began simply as a rodeo, but gradually expanded into a multi-day festival.
The West Valley Kiwanis Club purchased the rodeo grounds and hosted a popular Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competition. The club eventually sold the facility, leaving Phil Sheridan Days without a place to hold the rodeo and the destruction derby that traditionally followed.
Those two events were heavily attended and were huge revenue producers. Overall attendance for the celebration dwindled without them.
As a result, the city was left without a celebration from 1996 to 1998. Under new leadership, it resumed in 1999 with a new mix of activities under a new name — Sheridan Days.
At that point, reference to Gen. Phil Sheridan was dropped at the joint request of the tribe and the popular casino it operates in Grand Ronde. Sheridan led a brutal military campaign against local tribes, making him a hated figure in their history, and the planning committee agreed to respect tribal wishes.
Reyn Leno, who chairs the Grand Ronde Tribal Council, termed the reversal of that decision this year a “sad commentary on the local community.” He said it showed a lack of respect for Sheridan’s neighboring tribal community.
“The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is seriously disappointed in the decision to rename Sheridan Days to Phil Sheridan Days,” he said. “While the general may be lauded for his role in the Civil War, his treatment of Native Americans was shameful.”
He said the tribe is asking the committee to reconsider honoring a man responsible for indiscriminate hanging of tribal ancestors and credited with uttering the infamous quote, “The only good Indian is a dead one.”
Leno said the tribe was a proactive partner in the original change from Phil Sheridan to Sheridan Days.
“We have supported this community celebration over the last few years,” he said, making the change a slap in the face.
Committee President Bob White said he and Vice-President Ted Mayfield made it official when they registered Phil Sheridan Days with the Secretary of State’s Corporate Division in April. He defended the decision to go back.
“I grew up in McMinnville,” White said. “When I was a kid, and we were told it was Phil Sheridan Days weekend, and we didn’t have to buck hay, it was like, ‘Whoop-de-doo.’ I loved Phil Sheridan Days.
“It was a long tradition. All of the old-timers gave me hell hundreds of times because the name changed.”
White termed Sheridan a “great American general.” He said he owns a replica of the uniform worn by Sheridan and plans to wear it in Saturday’s Grand Parade.
Mayor Val Adamson said he also supported a return to Phil Sheridan Days.
“I’m fine with it, absolutely,” he said. “Everyone likes to go back to their roots, heritage and family history.”
The celebration has been held on the third weekend in June in previous years, but was moved to the fourth weekend this year to accommodate the carnival company Sheridan uses.
There was one drawback to that. The car show had already committed to the earlier date, so proceeded separately.
This year’s celebration features an all-school reunion, art show, carnival, chicken barbecue, slate of family activities, schedule of helicopter rides, honored court tea, motorcycle show, pancake breakfast and array of vendor booths.
A Junior Parade will set out for the high school at 6 p.m. Friday from City Park. The Grand Parade will set out for City Park at 6 p.m. Saturday from Faulconer-Chapman School.
Civic leader and current City Council President Harry Cooley, who is retired from the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, will be the grand marshal. Ruth Davis and Dorothy Hawk will ride in the parade as Honored Court members.
“Undersea Adventures” is the theme of this year’s celebration.
Peter Huangsy, a Sheridan Japanese School student, submitted the winning theme. He received $75 and a trophy.
IF YOU GO
What: Phil Sheridan Days, Sheridan’s traditional summer festival showcase, restored to its original name this year after a number of years as simply Sheridan Days. It is named after Gen. Phil Sheridan, who was once stationed in the area.
Where: Throughout the West Valley community.
When: Thursday, June 20, through Sunday, June 23.
What to do: The celebration features an all-school reunion, art show, carnival, chicken barbecue, family fun activities, helicopter rides, honored court tea, motorcycle show, pancake breakfast and array of vendor booths.
The Sheridan Museum of History will be open Friday and Saturday at 245 S. Bridge St.
A Junior Parade will set out for the high school at 6 p.m. Friday from City Park. A Grand Parade will set out for City Park at 6 p.m. Saturday from Faulconer-Chapman School.
Civic Leader Harry Cooley, retired from the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, will serve as grand marshal of Saturday’s parade. It will feature business and commercial entries, adult horse riders and groups, juvenile horse riders and groups, marching bands, dance troupes, restored cars, tricked out trucks and novelty entries — joined by log trucks and fire trucks — with registration starting at 2 and judging at 4.
For information on this year’s event, taking the theme “Undersea Adventures,” visit www.sheridandays.com.