Heritage Festival returns to Ogletree Gap Park in Copperas Cove

By PAMELA GRANT
Cove Leader-Press

After a long hiatus, the Ogletree Gap Heritage Festival has finally made its triumphant return to the park for which it is named.

The Ogletree Gap Heritage Festival, sponsored by the Copperas Cove Historical Society, took place at Ogletree Gap Park starting at 10 a.m. The fun-filled event featured a variety of entertainment including a demonstration by the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, Native American flute playing by Chief Lasaro, martial arts by Self Defense America, storytelling by Linda Ledger and James Powell, and more. They also had pioneer demonstrations like blacksmithing, metal crafting, fire starting, native dying, and more. They offered carriage rides, various children’s games, and animals including sheep, goats, and Olaf the Longhorn. Festival-goers even had the rare chance to peek inside the old Ogletree stage stop, one of the oldest buildings in Copperas Cove.

“This is the first year we’ve been able to reestablish,” said James “Doc” Powell, a local historian and member of the Historical Society.

The stated mission of the Copperas Cove Historical Society is to celebrate and preserve the history of Copperas Cove, Texas. Their vision is to be a community that knows and honors its past through education, celebration, and preservation. The Heritage Festival is something that the city used to hold, but they hadn’t been able to do so since 2008.

Powell allowed interested eventgoers to take pictures with him and/or his doctor’s buggy from 1893 and taught them about the history of Cove. For example, in addition to being a home for the Ogletrees, the building at Ogletree Gap Park was used as a stage stop, general store, and post office. Ogletree initially applied for the city to be named “Cove”, but the name was already taken so he applied for and was granted the name “Coperas Cove” which eventually became Copperas Cove. It was named because he’d thought the water had copper in it, but it was actually sulfur.

Powell said that he was most impressed by the tenacity of the founders of the city, “how hard they worked and how dedicated they were to the work. They were survivors.” 

Throughout the demonstration by the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, Specialist Javier Valdez made announcements, describing what techniques they were demonstrating, what the maneuvers were used for, and why they performed certain techniques.

Valdez said that they mainly perform in ceremonies and public events. Saturday’s performance included 33 horses and 4 mules. They did tricks such as jumping over obstacles and weaving in and around obstacles and other horses. The riders shot targets, cut targets, and even rescued an unmounted rider all while using traditional weapons.

“Our main efforts are public relations and recruiting,” said Valdez. “There’s more to the Army than what you think. There’s an extremely wide opportunity to do things in the US Army.

Many of the eventgoers were particularly thrilled by the 1st Cavalry Division’s demonstration.

Michelle Allen brought her son, Kaleb Smith (7), to the event. Kaleb was a big fan of the 1st Cavalry demonstration.

“I really liked them,” said Kaleb. “I liked it when the cannons were shooting…Back then, they didn’t have tanks, so they had to use horses instead of tanks because tanks weren’t invented. They had to use horses and wagons and other stuff.”

“I like all the history that’s out here, said Allen. “I like all the different vendors. The metal workers were cool. It’s a good time of year for it too. It’s not as hot. We enjoyed the vendors, and we enjoyed watching the cavalry.”

“We’re trying to bring back the history of Copperas Cove,” said Joan Kelley, event coordinator. “It’s to help educate the kids on what things were like here before compared to what it is today. There’s a lot to learn.”

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