Democracy Dies in Darkness

In Sight | Perspective

Celebrating tradition in ‘No Man’s Land’

June 14, 2018 at 9:33 AM

A rodeo participant warms up a horse for the Guymon Pioneer Days festivities in Guymon, Okla. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
People wait in line for concessions during the 86th Guymon Pioneer Days in Guymon, Okla. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)

In the mid-1800s it was known as “No Man’s Land.” In the 1930s, it was the epicenter of the Dust Bowl. In 2017, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt spent $14,434.50 to fly there to speak with landowners whose farms were affected by a rule about water bodies. This is Guymon, Okla.

Guymon, located in the heart of the Oklahoma Panhandle, with a population of about 12,000, is not known for its festivities. But once a year, the Guymon Pioneer Days celebration consumes this small town and pays tribute to those who first tamed the sometimes inhospitable terrain. “It’s just a celebration of what our forefathers did,” said attendee Jesse Martin, 67. “This can be a pretty harsh area. They went through some pretty tough years and stuck it out and had a lot of tenacity.”

Pioneer Days is a week-long celebration of Guymon and has grown over the years, gathering awards like the Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year and attracting visitors from around the region. The event includes four rodeo performances, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, mutton bustin’, a parade, carnival and dances.

“The city fathers back in the 1930s wanted to create an event to help people who were going through the Great Depression,” said Ted Harbin, the event’s media director. This, he said, was an opportunity to “celebrate despite all this.”

Participants are reflected in a vehicle as they wait to compete in a barrel racing event. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
People line Main Street during the Guymon Pioneer Days parade. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
People watch the Guymon Pioneer Days parade. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
Rodeo queens from around the country pose for photos in front of a longhorn steer. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
People stand to pray and hear the national anthem during an afternoon rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
People gather at Bob’s Cowboy Bar following an evening rodeo performance during Guymon Pioneer Days. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
People walk past the Guymon Pioneer Days’ Pride of Texas Carnival. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)
Dona Kay Rule sits on horseback during an evening rodeo that was part of Guymon Pioneer Days. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/)

Matt McClain is a staff photojournalist at The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, he was a staff photographer at the Ventura County Star in Ventura, Calif., and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.

Karly Domb Sadof is an award-winning photo editor at The Washington Post, currently working on the national news desk. She is also a contributing writer for In Sight, The Post’s photography blog. She joined The Post in 2016.

MaryAnne Golon is the Director of Photography at The Washington Post. Before joining The Post in 2012, MaryAnne was the director of photography at Time Magazine and a senior photography editor there for more than 20 years. She graduated with honors from The University of Florida with a B.S. in Journalism.

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