Historic Burlingame Celebrates Trail-Rail Heritage With ‘Rodeo Days’ This Weekend

Tough to find a more historic community than Burlingame, Kansas, often referred to by Chamber of Commerce officials as “where the rail meets the trail.”

“We get that reference, because Burlingame is the first location where the original Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad crosses the Santa Fe Trail,” according to Mark Hecht, Burlingame businessman and Chamber of Commerce official.

The Switzler Creek Crossing is at the eastern edge of Burlingame, very near the present-day Highway 56 bridge. A toll bridge was operated there from 1847 to the 1860s, and it was at Burlingame that the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway made its first contact with the Santa Fe Trail in 1869. The trail went down the main street of Burlingame.

“Today, one can get the feeling of nearly a century and a half ago as the Santa Fe Trail, now Highway 56, becomes Santa Fe Avenue as Burlingame’s brick main street remains intact, throwback of the 1800s, when it was constructed wide enough for an oxen team to be able to make a U-turn,” Hecht related.

“What more appropriate way for the Chamber of Commerce to honor and celebrate our Osage County community’s most historic charm than a ‘Rodeo Days,’ on Saturday, May 16, in conjunction with the Burlingame Saddle Club’s 45the anniversary’s Santa Fe Trail Rodeo, Friday and Saturday evenings,” Heck insisted.

“Everything is shaping up to be one of the biggest and best Rodeo Days ever,” Hecht contended. “As long as the weather holds, we’re going to have a great weekend here in Burlingame.”

Double sanctioned by the United Rodeo Association, and the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, the 45th annual Santa Fe Trail Rodeo at the saddle club arena, will begin at 8 p.m., on both May 15 and 16, featuring events for top rodeo cowboys and cowgirls from the throughout the Midwest.

“But, there will be a number of contestants from the surrounding area competing, too, giving the event a true hometown atmosphere, and fittingly appropriate for our Rodeo Days celebration,” Hecht pointed out.

The “Armed Forces Salute” themed downtown parade will begin at 10 o’clock, Saturday morning, May 16, featuring the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, as well as other horseback groups, and a number of local cowboys and cowgirls on horseback.

B&C Equine Rescue from Carbondale is expected to be represented in the parade and have displays set up explaining their mission.

“I’ve got my poo patrol teams going; two teams competing against each other to pick up what the horses leave behind,” Hecht informed.

Jars will be out at local businesses to vote for the team of Burlingame school administrators Alan Konicek, Tammy Baird and Tamara Buche; or city representatives Vikki DeMars and Leslie Holman, and Douglas Siebuhr of Bank of Burlingame.

“People put funds in for whichever team they want to follow the horses in the parade with a wheelbarrow and two shovels,” Hecht said.

“The collections will be used to help pay for downtown portable toilets,” he noted.

“Of course, the Shriner’s Motor scooter will be here, and they always attract attention and applause,” Hecht added

Registration is available before the start of the parade, and all entries have been welcomed.

The Armed Forces Tribute will continue with a mounted arms demonstration by the Fort Riley Cavalry portrayers at 10:30. “Any veterans and active servicemen in uniform would be awesome to have in attendance,” Hecht said.

Additional downtown events include the bluegrass, gospel and country music performances and jam sessions from 11 to 4 p.m. at Hecht’s Trail Songs Music, with acts including “The Boiler Room Boys,” along with “Peter Whitebird and Bubba.”

Free pony rides and games for kids will be from 11 a.m., to 2 p.m., beside the Burlingame Library. A Braken on the Bricks car and motorcycle show will run from 11 until 2.

The Burlingame Federated Church will host a bubble soccer tournament and pancake feed, 9 a.m., to 4 p.m., and Schuyler Museum will have a taco feed from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m.

Vendors will be set up in the center of West Santa Fe Avenue from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m.

Among those planning specials for the day are Country Hands Woodworking, Home Spun Relics Metals, Antiques & Vintage, Bullets and Bowstrings Hunting and Fishing, Robyn’s Nest, Chicken Coop Antiques, Main Street Mercantile, Great Plains Quilt Company, Audra’s Country Bridal, Big Boar Cycles, Steve Schilt Wood Flutes, PK Country Designs, and J&L Custom Rock Designs.

“I’m happy with the vendors we have, but additional exhibitors, especially those with unique food items, are still welcome to participate by getting reservations to me,” said Hecht, who can be contacted at 785-633-6308, or on Facebook.

Besides the historic significance of Burlingame itself, there are several important historic sites nearby.

The McGee-Harris Stage Station, east of Burlingame, is about one mile south of Highway 56, on the east bank of 110 Mile Creek. This stage station was started in the 1850s, by Fry McGee, who also erected a toll bridge over 110 Mile Creek.

McGee’s son-in-law, named Harris, built a residence and store nearby, and following the death of McGee, operated the station from 1861 to 1866, when this segment of the Santa Fe Tail closed. Crumbled building remains are all that are left of the stage station, residence, and store.

The Dragoon Creek Crossing, a natural rock crossing point, is three miles northwest of Burlingame, and north of Kansas Highway 31.

The creek itself is reported to have been named after a troop of dragoons who came over the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s, or possibly for a dragoon, Samuel Hunt, whose grave is located just to the west. The crossing still appears as it did in the trail days.

The Havana Stage Station is about one mile west of Dragoon Creek, and just south of Highway 31. Reportedly built in 1858, this station was complemented by a store and hotel. The hotel and store are gone, and only the remains of the stage station are discernible, although the Heart of the Flint Hills Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail is planning to restore it.