A competition in Salem, Oregon, later this Saturday will give folks nostalgic for The Oregon Trail — i.e. everyone who had access to a PC in the ’80s and ’90s — the chance to relive the classic game in all its pixellated, dysentery’d splendor.
Oregon Trail Live goes down September 20 at Salem’s Willamette Heritage Center. Salem is about 45 minutes south of Portland and right smack in the middle of the Willamette Valley, Oregon Trail‘s oasis-esque destination.
The event, now in its third year, is about what you’d expect from the environs of the city that brought you the dream of the ’90s and this dude. Participating “pioneers” — who are encouraged to dress the part and come up with a motivation for their emigration — compete in 10 scored challenges based loosely on the iconic game.
In past years, says Willamette Heritage Center education coordinator Kathleen Schulte, challenges have included carrying game meat (that is, carting a 200-pound guy wearing a cow costume up a hill in a Radio Flyer), burying your dead (the “ill-fated team member” is a paper doll, and an original dirge is required), and taking part in a three-legged dysentery race, which, Schulte says demurely, “you can just imagine.” (I can’t.)
The competition culminates in a homesteaders’ exam based on historical Oregon Trail trivia. As in the Oregon Trail computer game that was developed in 1971 by a trio of student teachers, a spoonful of entertainment makes the education go down. “Everybody is bribe-able for the information,” Schulte joked to me. In the event’s first year, she served as a highly-corruptible sheriff. “I got two pennies from the future and a raspberry granola bar for helping a team pass.”
Stay tuned later this month for our report from this year’s event.
Jonathan Frochtzwajg is a freelance journalist who has reached the Willamette Valley. It’s rainy here. jfrochtzwajg.com
Pictures: the Oregon Trail Live site