Draws Many to
By Christeena Sherman - Correspondent
On Aug. 14 South Park Living History Day at the South Park City Museum in Fairplay attracted visitors from as far away as Toronto, Canada, visiting to learn about American history from characters depicting people who lived from the 1860s to about 1900.
"We were coming from Breckenridge and just happened to stop in Fairplay after seeing the crowd in town. This is so much fun and so interesting," said Mike Hiltz, from Toronto.
John Bell, a resident of Brighton, portrayed a "Buffalo Soldier," a term that eventually referred to all of the African-American regiments formed in 1866.
"My grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier in the 1890s, and my dad and uncle were also soldiers in the 1930s and 40s," he said.
The Brighton-based group participates in events all over the country with four-, six-, and eight-man mounted teams, according to Bell.
"We LOVE talking about history" he said.
Dave Nicholas Johnston, from Colorado Springs, acted as the "town drunk," William Cletus Van Horn, born in 1849. Johnston is part of the Colorado Springs-based Gold Canyon Gunfighters group, and he said that the 25-30 members include the youngest, who is "still in the womb."
Helen Hunt Jackson was an author portrayed by Doris McCraw, also from Colorado Springs.
"The famous quote from Jackson was ‘I may love to write, but I write for the money," said McCraw.
The author was the wife of the president of the Denver Rio Grande railroad, William S. Jackson, and wrote under the initials HH.
McCraw said that Hunt Jackson was an incredible and observant writer. "You can literally see where she was traveling through her writings," she added.
All of the "actors" were volunteers who came to Living History Day in order to preserve the area’s heritage and South Park City.
Donations were accepted for the Summery Brewery fund to repair the building’s wiring and foundation in South Park City at Living History Day.
Jim Sapp, trustee and Webmaster for South Park City, said that the South Park Historical Foundation has also received requests for bricks, which are a part of the Bottles-N-Bricks fund- raising project of the organization. For minimum donations, a person can get a name or message inscribed on a brick or a name on the label of a bottle.
The bricks will be used to pave the entrance and exits of the brewery building. Donations may be given at the visitor’s center or at southparkcity.org.
"The Gold Canyon Gunfighters donated their normal $300 fee to help us out," said Donna Breckenridge, gift shop clerk at the South Park City Museum.
Breckenridge also said that the museum has been selling a lot of Bernie Nagy’s "Colorado’s South Park" book.
Nagy conducted a photo workshop at Living History Day, and his students had fun photographing the characters on Saturday.
"I came up to spend this lovely morning [in South Park] learning how to take pictures from Bernie," said Bailey resident Laurie Allen.
Living History Day also featured musical entertainment. "Enchanted Springs," made up of husband and wife Randy and Carol Barnes, performed traditional American and cowboy tunes on a hammered dulcimer, guitars, and spoons.
Meanwhile, in the schoolhouse at South Park City, Annie Monson portrayed a school teacher and related a story to "students" — Alyssa Davis, 7, from Fairplay, and Robin Trujillo, 9, from Lakewood.
"In ‘98, my husband, ‘Moses’ [Chuck Monson] and I moved here. I was staining the stairs of our deck when I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. There was no sound and I stood up and turned around in surprise to come face to face with a very furry roly-poly black bear about 20 feet away. We looked at each other in surprise. He waddled away and I went back to work," she told the wide-eyed girls.
Ingrid McDonald, from Peyton, Colorado gave demonstrations on how clothes were washed in the late 1800s. McDonald used a "stomper" that was left to her by her German grandmother.
"Miners used to accidentally leave gold nuggets in their pants’ pockets, so when the ladies washed the prospectors’ laundry, oftentimes the gals made more money than the miners," said McDonald.
While the aforementioned, stumbling "Van Horn" was performing his skit, he shouted to McDonald, "Do you use a solar-powered suspension unit to do laundry?!", which brought laughter from the onlookers.
John "Black Jack" Juzwiak, of the Gold Canyon Gunfighters, described some of the risks of their acting. "A few years ago we were performing in Buena Vista, and ‘Cactus Jack’ and I were putting on a bar fight show. We were throwing fake punches and one of them I threw connected with ‘Jack.’ He dropped, with his mouth bleeding - my hand was bleeding, too."
"Faith Margery" was a saloon girl who ‘learned everything I know from "Aunt Charity," the madam of the bar.
Beth Swanson and her husband, Erik, were strolling around the town dressed as a late 1800s couple. She said that the coverage from Denver television and radio stations had really helped to bring a lot of visitors to the event.
Noel Ekin was selling tickets to South Park City over the weekend. "The tickets are selling great — we’ve been very, very, very busy," he said.
Denver resident Geoff Cleveland summed it up: "This is great. It’s a lot of fun and inspiring"