Longtime county residents honored at Pioneer Days Festival

Alisa Boswell

Receiving Pioneers of the Year recognition at the annual Pioneer Days breakfast Thursday morning was both a surprise and an honor for Bill and Peggy Prater, according to Bill Prater.

Prater, vice president for the Pioneer Board, said the board picks who is the Pioneer of the Year but when his name was submitted, he stepped out of the voting.

“I really thought we should be 80 (to receive award),” Prater said jokingly Thursday. “I know some more people who have lived in the county their whole lives.”

Citizens come up with names for Pioneers of the Year nominations, from which the Pioneer Board makes their selection.

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Prater said to qualify for the award, individuals have to have been Roosevelt County residents for at least 40 years.

He and his wife have both lived in the county for over 70 years and have been married for 61 years.

“If any of you get the chance, visit with them and listen to their stories,” Judy Campbell, their daughter, said Thursday morning as she gave a speech in honor of her parents’ award. “ They finish each other’s sentences, finish each other’s stories, embellish each other’s stories, and it’s one of the most entertaining things you’ve ever seen.”

The pioneer event kicked off the fourth day of the Roosevelt County Fair. The dining hall in the Jake Lopez Building was filled with laughter and conversation Thursday morning as residents ranging from 50 years residency in the county to 90 years visited and reminisced with each other about attending elementary school together, raising their children together and more.

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“Here I was in seventh grade and I thought, that’s the cutest boy I’ve ever seen,” said pioneer board member Charlene Foster, laughing as she recounted the memory of how she and her husband met. “Then we were married three months after graduation.”

Foster’s husband, municipal judge Billy J. Foster, died 14 years ago.

Eighty-year residents George Hay and Max Davis joked and jested with their friend, Jessie Edmonds, an over 70-year resident.

“Of course, Max only comes to eat the food,” Edmonds said, jokingly as she gave her other table members a wink.

Davis said he has only been attending the event the last few years but there are much more unfamiliar faces to him now than in previous years because of the loss of many Roosevelt County pioneers.

At the start of the event, Foster read a list of 108 names of pioneers lost since last year’s event.

“The fellowship with all our friends is really important,” Edmonds said. “We know a lot of people here.”