Another step was taken Wednesday on the long journey to bring the Trails End project to fruition when a ground-breaking ceremony was held at the northeast corner of the Missouri State Fairgrounds, which is where the project will be on permanent display.
Ed Watkins addressed those attending the ceremony, which was originally postponed a couple of weeks due to extremely soggy conditions at the site.
Several members of the Trails End Committee, as well as over a dozen donors and contributors to the project were lined up behind brand new shiny shovels for a photo opp, including Sedalia’s two mayors — outgoing Mayor Elaine Horn, and Mayor Elect Steve Galliher, and Pettis County Presiding Commissioner John Meehan. Also behind the shovel were former Western Commissioner Larry Wilson and State Fair Director Mark Wolfe, as well as major financial contributors Barb and Robert Hayden.
“People have done a remarkable job in terms of community awareness, getting the word out, working on the renovation of the cars,” Watkins noted.
He singled out developer David Curry for donating office space for Trails End Committee members. “He’s been very supportive of everything we’ve done.”
Sedalia artist Madge Gressley was lauded for her “extraordinary job” on the project’s graphics, along with artist Myrna Ragar.
The donors were praised by Watkins for collectively raising over $500,000 for the project. That includes cash, pledges and in-kind contributions.
A large quantity of fill dirt has already been built up at the site by Mike Brown of B&P Excavating. And Ron Ditzfeld was also recognized for his tireless transportation contributions through Ditzfeld Transfer. Septagon’s Gary McMullin was recognized for the construction supervision of the project. Former Democratic Sen. Jim Mathewson was credited by Watkins for his longtime efforts to promote Sedalia. Republican Sen. Mike Parson arranged meetings between Trails End and the Missouri State Department of Economic Development, the head of Missouri Tourism, the Department of Agriculture amd the Department of Natural Resources. Sen. Parson was unable to attend the ceremony.
Trails End Committee member Dr. Doug Kiburz gave an overview of the project during his portion of the program.
He noted all the Missouri connections to the Great Westward Expansion, mentioning the Gateway Arch, Lewis & Clark, and of course Sedalia and its role in the migration of six million cattle. from the Shawnee Trail to the Sedalia Trail, “wihch made us the first cowtown,” Dr. Kiburz said. Pres. Lincoln was responsible for the Homestead Act, which connected the east with the west through railroads. “At one time, there were over five different railroads (in Sedalia) … And that makes us a hub, the lynchpin of the movement going to the West.”
Trails End is a piece of American history, he stressed, adding that several components of the project have been unearthed from all over the US and relocated to Sedalia to make the project come alive.
Kiburz concluded his speech with a toot on a wooden train whistle.
A bronze stature of a cowboy mounted on a horse in being created by artist Michael Wilson in Salt Lake City.
Phase one of the fund-raising efforts is compete and the cost of the bronze pieces are paid for. Phase two is under way to cover the cost of the repairs to the cattle car and engine and for the water tower and windmill that will complete the site. Many local contractors are donating their labor and materials for the site development, so that saves on the overall costs. Volunteers are working to rebuild the train pieces, which also helps to keep down the costs, it was earlier reported by the group.
Plans call for a sidewalk to connect the parking area behind the plaza to the walkway around the sculptures. Bricks to line the sidewalk are being sold so that donors can honor friends and family with their names engraved as part of the monument. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia Weekly Observer.