If you’ve been listening to The Breakfast Bunch this week, you have certainly at least once heard me refer to The Sacajawea Festival in Cloverport. I was there Wednesday afternoon, and will spend much of this evening there as well, broadcasting and soaking up the ambiance. It’s a classic small-town street festival with goofy carnival rides, funnel cakes and corn dogs, music and Miss (fill in the blank) pageants. But with a twist.
Sacajawea (according to Festival officials pronounced “suh KAH juh wah”) was a 16-yr-old Lemhi Shoshone girl who served as guide and translator for Lewis and Clark on their milestone mission to explore The Louisiana Purchase. What Sacajawea has to do with Cloverport I have no idea — she was born in what is now Idaho, lived in North Dakota and died in St. Louis. She was purchased as a wife at the age of 13 by a French trapper named Charbonneau, and was selected by Lewis and Clark because of her knowledge of the Shoshone language. But for reasons of their own Cloverport has celebrated her every year since 1964 by throwing a street party and inviting local kids to dress up as Lewis and Clark (who did paddle past Cloverport in 1803 on their was from Pittsburgh to St. Louis) and as Sacajawea in pageants that result in an annual Sacajawea Princess, etc.
Besides lots of earthy, friendly people and a familiar festival environment, Cloverport has to offer one of the most beautiful views of the Ohio River you will ever see. The vista from downtown is nothing short of breathtaking — marred only by a lot of turn-of-the-century brick buildings now boarded up and in the middle of a decaying downtown that once, 150 years ago, boasted 26 taverns, a thriving coal, natural gas and coal oil industry and 3 dozen steamboats a day stopping for supplies as they plied the freight trade up and down the only highway then in existence — the Ohio.
Search “Sacajawea festival” and you’ll find out everything about the event except — “why?” Nobody I’ve talked to has the answer, but nobody seems to care. Why not?