Bagnell Dam beginnings celebrated at Oma Noma Days

Today, their triumphant ride is celebrated withOma Noma Days on the Bagnell Dam Strip. / Deborah Wolfe

Rising in the wee hours of a 1931 morn, two fiery sisters set out to stake their claim to fame.

Oma and Noma Degraffenreid got this idea that they wanted to be the first to cross Bagnell Dam, Bagnell Dam Strip Association spokesman, Mike Page said. So when Union Electric announced they would open the dam on May 31, they were at the gate.

Not only were Oma and Noma the first to reach the other side, they left a VIP in their wake.

Being the high-spirited girls they were, they floored it, they were not going to be beat, Page said. The Union Electric superintendent TMs wife lost her claim to fame to our hometown girls.

Today, their triumphant ride is celebrated with a trip back in time along the Bagnell Dam Strip. Each year, thousands of visitors enjoy a weekend of old-fashioned fun at the annual Oma Noma Days.

It TMs important to keep the history alive and see where we came from, Page said. That always gives us a little more of an insight as to where we want to go.

A variety of family friendly activities and contests included a peanut spitting, bubble gum blowing, pie eating and frog jumping contest. One contest in particular, stood out as a whimsical tribute to our Ozark roots.

In the Great Outhouse Race, competitors rode their wobbly, wooden thrones to the peculiar grand prize of a toilet lid.

A vintage look at the lake was on display in the historic White House. Compiled over a period of 40 years by historian, Dwight Weaver, more than 100 photos told stories of a bygone day.

The Union Electric project alone was such a mammoth undertaking, Page said. It TMs interesting to see how that came about and how the Lake Area developed over the years.

Ongoing developments at Bagnell Dam were open to view for the first time since 9/11. In honor of the dam TMs 80th anniversary, Ameren allowed tours of the facility every half hour on Saturday.

The White House was also the site of a very special birthday party hosted by none other than Oma and Noma, portrayed by Carol Cody and Lilli Shields. The birthday boy was the daring pair TMs, now 90 year-old nephew, Tennison Degraffenreid.

Tennison was 10 years old when they crossed the dam and he wanted to go but they wouldn TMt let him, Page said. He is still a big part of the Lake community and we were thrilled to honor his birthday.

As co-owner of the White House and active community member, Tennison, carries on the Degraffinreid TMs lake legacy. Page hopes that Oma and Noma TMs race into the future will inspire others to make the Lake a better place.

So many of our young people know the lake for the fun atmosphere, Page said. They don TMt realize the history that was involved here.