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Sickels to lead parade as White Bird Days grand marshals

Sharon and Duane Sickels will reign as grand marshals of the 2018 White Bird Days and Rodeo.

Sharon and Duane Sickels will reign as grand marshals of the 2018 White Bird Days and Rodeo.

— Sharon and Duane Sickels have come full circle.

The couple – along with Millie and Dallas Robinette – started White Bird Days in 1978.

Forty years later, the Sickels will reign as grand marshals of the 2018 White Bird Days and Rodeo.

“We wanted to do something that drew people back to White Bird,” explained Sharon.

“Those who’d grown up and moved away – we wanted them to have a reason to come back,” Duane added.

The idea was a good one, as that first year brought in about 300 people to the area and a picnic at the White Bird School.

“It poured down rain that first year,” Sharon recalled. “Everyone kind of stood around at first, but that rainstorm broke the ice as we crowded into the school with all our food.”

Throughout the years, Connie and Bill Shuck added games and others helped make the event what it is today, adding the rodeo about 30 years ago.

Duane and Sharon have lived in White Bird most of their lives. They each graduated from high school in Riggins. He served in the Army and is a Vietnam veteran.

Duane drove truck in the area and when mills began to close and logging subsided in the ’80s, the family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he continued to be a long-haul truck driver.

“But we were very glad to come home,” Sharon recalled. “This is where we belong.”

And when they did come home, White Bird Days was still going strong and has continued to do so for years.

The Sickels said they appreciate the hearts – along with the hard work – of the White Bird and surrounding area people.

“They all pitch in to help others and give to the town in so many ways,” the couple agreed.

The biggest change for the duo in the past 40 to 50 years has been all the new people in the area along with the simple sheer volume of people.

“You used to go out and hunt or fish or go for a drive and not run into anyone at all,” Duane said. “It’s not that way anymore, for sure.”

However, Sharon said, the many newcomers to the area have helped to town prosper.

“They work right alongside the old-timers and do so much – decorations, wood splitting, raising money for the medical fund – you name it,” Sharon stated.

The couple recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. They have three children – Donna, Kelly and Clint – as well as six grandchildren, and their sixth great-grandchild should be born by White Bird Days.

Though a couple of accidents have interfered with Duane’s mobility, he still enjoys hunting and making knives with antler handles. Sharon enjoys quilting and outdoor activities, including boating and fishing.

“We’re honored to be a part of this year’s White Bird Days and Rodeo celebration,” Sharon said, with Duane nodding in agreement. “We love it here and plan to stay in this town as long as possible.”


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