Editor's Note: Fort Robinson State Park truly is a gem. All Nebraskans – especially those in Dawes County and northwest Nebraska – should be proud. This afternoon, we received an e-mail from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission about holiday events in western Nebraska. At this late date, we suspect tickets for the Christmas Dinner are probably gone, but local folks might still give it a try. Merry Christmas! ~~~~~~~
Join us (December 7th) for the 24th Annual Christmas Dinner at Fort Robinson's Buffalo Soldiers Barracks! The theme will be 1878, which was an important year in the fort's history.
The 24th annual Christmas Dinner will take people back to 1878, an important year in the fort’s history. Guests will be treated to the same menu as the one of that year, when it was a military post for the U.S. Cavalry. The dinner will include turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, pork loin, asparagus, sweet potatoes, rolls and “all the fixings.”
The year chosen for the dinner is the one that the post’s name changed from Camp Robinson to Fort Robinson. More significant though, it was the period of one of the fort’s most unfortunate events.
That October was when the Cavalry intercepted 149 Cheyenne Indians led by Chief Dull Knife, who were attempting to return to their northern homelands from Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, and took them into custody at the post. The following January would mark the escape of the group, an event known as the Cheyenne Breakout, and ensuing “Fort Robinson massacre.” All of the escapees were either killed or recaptured when attempting to flee the harsh conditions of their confinement. Some made it as far as 35 miles away before soldiers caught up with them.
The barracks where the Cheyennes were held captive have been recreated at Fort Robinson, and a monument commemorating the incident was installed below the Cheyenne Buttes on land owned by Chief Dull Knife College just west of the park in 2016.
The Christmas dinner’s program, annually enhanced by many attendees who dress in period attire, includes live music and historical commentary. The doors will open at 6 p.m.
Tickets for the event usually sell out quickly and are available at select locations. They may be purchased for $30 each at Fort Robinson’s headquarters, D&S Market in Harrison and the Visitors Center-Chamber of Commerce in Chadron. Because of high demand, there is a limit of four tickets per household.
Again complementing the event’s festive atmosphere will be the Christmas lights installed on park buildings with help from community members. The lights will turn on at 6 p.m. the night of the dinner and will remain lit each evening through December. Groups interested in decorating a building at the park may contact the office at 308-665-2900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.