Santa-Cali-Gon Festival: A Short History

DOwnload a copy of the 1940 official program

DOwnload a copy of the 1940 official program

The first Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival was held in 1940 to celebrate Independence's heritage as the starting point of the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails.

The official 1940 program offered this description of the three-day festival held in October.

"Wagon trains for the expeditions into the West were outfitted at Independence. Here wagons were made and repaired; horses and oxen shod; provisions were purchased; and encouragement was given in many other way to those adventuring westward ... The celebration this week is to recall the adventures and the daring spirits of those who pioneered and to emphasize the important part that Independence played in the development of the great West."

The second celebration was not held until 1947 after conclusion of World War II.

On that occasion, Borden Sudbrock, an Independence amateur photographer captured moving images from the second celebration.

"He was smitten by the fun of taking early 'movies,' and often carried the camera around, waiting the the next inspiration," wrote Sudbrock's nephew Paul Nagel, who grew up in Independence and was a distinguished American historian. 


Nagel, who died  in 2011, gave Sudbrock's home movies to Brent Schondelmeyer a friend, local historian and Jackson County Historical Society board member.

This is a short newsreel video clip from the first festival held in October 1940.

Several efforts to get the brittle 8mm film transferred to digital medium proved fruitless until documentary filmmaker Jefferson Lujin got the film safely transferred onto digital format allowing it to be shared online.

The 1947 celebration would be the last Santa Cali Gon festival until it was revived in 1973 and called Three Trails Days for one year until the earlier name - a combination of syllables from Santa Fe, California and Oregon - was restored.

Santa Cali Gon has become a major regional festival, organized by the Independence Chamber of Commerce, which traditionally is held on Labor Day weekend.

Learn more about this year's festival.