OLYMPIC TORCH RIDE

Olympic

The National Pony Express Association brought a decidedly western style to the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. The Torch was carried by horse and rider relay from Julesburg, Colorado, to St. Joseph, Missouri, May 13-16, 1996.

More than 300 Riders rode 1-2 mile rides on the 544 mile, 56:15 hour route from Colorado through Nebraska and Kansas to St. Joseph. The Torch was carried through North Platte and Kearney, Nebraska, by runners, escorted by Pony Express Riders.

Pony Rider
The equestrians, all experienced trail riders, came from the NPEA's State Divisions in California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska Kansas and Missouri. They wore western wide-brimmed hats, western boots, blue jeans, red shirts, yellow bandanas, and brown vests with the distinctive Rider back patch and an Olympic Torchbearer Patch on the left front of the vest and the left shirt sleeve identifying them as Torchbearers.

The NPEA was the only group of Torchbearers who carried the Torch by horseback. It also had the distinction of being one of the few groups to carry the Torch nonstop, day and night.

Olympic Torch
The relay for the 1996 Olympic Torch started its 84-day, 15,000-mile cross-country trek in Los Angeles on April 27. After traveling by special train across Wyoming, the torch finally arrived at Julesburg, Colorado, by runner at 8:30 pm Monday, May 13. After an arrival ceremony, the torch was passed to the first Pony Express rider.

After leaving Julesburg, the Olympic Flame was carried through the night by riders of the Pony Express. At each transfer point a rider galloped down the trail, reins in one hand, the 3-pound torch in the other. Dismounting the rider handed off the torch to the next rider and a NPEA assistant removed the mochila from the incoming horse , placing it over the saddle of the outgoing mount. In the four pockets, or cantinas, of the mochila were over 1200 Olympic committee souvenir letters which were distributed to various schools.

Mochila The Pony Express riders arrived in North Platte, Nebraska, at about 7:30 in the morning. The last rider into town was the Governor of Nebraska who handed the torch to a relay runner. Runners, escorted by Pony Express riders, then carried to torch into town for an arrival ceremony. After runners carried the torch through the streets of North Platte, the torch was again handed off to a Pony Express rider, who continued down the trail.

After leaving North Platte the Pony Express riders headed east following the route of the original trail.

Pony Rider
The next ceremony was located south of Gothenburg, Nebraska, at the sight of one of the original Pony Express stations. The building is still there. There was quite a large crowd on hand to welcome the torch and rider. It is funny that you wait around for a long time (some times more than an hour) for a two-minute thrill. These guys don't wait around for as much as a howdy do. The exchange of riders, mochila, and torch takes less than two minutes, then rider and horse are off in a cloud of dust, and everyone is left saying to each other, "Wasn't that great!"

The riders finally arrived at Kearney, Nebraska, about 9:00 pm, where runners, escorted by Pony Express riders, again took over and carried the torch to Centennial Park for the local ceremony. Then back out to the trail and on into the night.

After traveling through the night the torch finally entered Kansas and stopped for a short ceremony at the Hollenburg Station near Hanover, early in the afternoon of Wednesday, May 15. Hollenburg is the site of the only Pony Express station in its original location.

After stops in Marysville and Seneca the riders finally passed the Kickapoo Indian Nation near Horton. Here an old fashioned cookout on the tribe's powwow grounds by the Delaware River was held to celebrate the occasion. The riders passed the powwow grounds about 2:30 am.

In Horton the Knights of Columbus held an all night dance-a-thon, with the riders arriving at 3:05 am. The riders passed through Troy about 5:15 am, and crossed the Missouri River at Elwood at about 6:00 am. After the final rider exchange at Mitchell Park in St. Joseph, the Pony Express rider with an escort of some ten other riders arrived at the Patee House at 7:35 am. The Patee House was the Headquarters of the Pony Express in 1860-61.

The torch had been successfully carried some 544 miles by 325 riders of the Pony Express. After a ceremony (of course) the torch was carried through the streets of St. Joseph by runners. At the edge of town the torch was transferred to bicycle and continued on its way to Kansas City.