Wild Bill Days to return to downtown Utica

Weekend festival celebrates life of Old West folk hero, Starved Rock Country native

“Wild Bill” Hickok, the legendary folk hero and Old West gunfighter, once again will be honored in the streets of downtown Utica this weekend at the LaSalle County Historical Society’s Wild Bill Days.

Located just a few miles southeast of his birthplace in present-day Troy Grove, the two-day, family-friendly festival will feature live historical reenactments, blacksmith demonstrations, an old-time medicine show and free, live entertainment.

Born James Butler Hickok, son of farmer and ardent abolitionist William Alonzo Hickok and wife Polly Butler, he spent his formative years working as a mule tender along the I&M Canal, which passes directly through downtown Utica, next to the LaSalle County Historical Society’s museum campus. After an altercation along the banks of the waterway, Hickok fled to the Western territories in 1855. There, he would spend time as a scout, antislavery militia member, actor, professional gambler and, famously, a gunfighter who played a key role in several legendary shootouts.

The festival celebrating Hickok’s lasting legacy is a family-friendly event, geared at entertaining diverse age groups with free shows. Whip trick guru Chris Camp, known as “The Whip Guy,” and Dan Barth of the Old-Time Medicine Show will perform hour-long shows on Saturday and Sunday starting at noon, 3:30 and 5 p.m.

A troupe of historical reenactors, called The Old West Regulators, will present vignettes of Hickok’s life from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Among the scenes they’re scheduled to perform, the talented actors will highlight Hickok’s infamous 1876 death at Deadwood in present-day South Dakota, as portrayed in countless films and television programs.

The LaSalle County Historical Society museum campus will feature special hours during the two-day event. The Utica museums will be open from noon to 6 p.m., and will feature a special, limited-time Hickok exhibit, displaying rare personal artifacts belonging to him and his family. The LaSalle County Historical Society also will kick off the season opening of its popular open-air Canal Market, where numerous vendors will be selling handmade, homemade, vintage and antique items.

For information, visit www.lasallecountyhistoricalsociety.org.