South Park City comes alive over Labor Day weekend
FAIRPLAY – Storms couldn’t quell the success of the first “citizens’ day” for Park County’s South Park City Museum on the Saturday before Labor Day.
Visitors, volunteers and museum staff all proclaimed the day a hit as residents of Fairplay and surrounding areas dressed in costumes of the late 1800s and gave visitors a glimpse into the world of a mining town during the boom days of yore.
Under roiling clouds that occasionally dumped heavy rain on the little, restored town, visitors enjoyed the opportunity to learn about gold panning, hear about traveling to the town in steam trains or by stagecoach and to watch a gunfight in the muddy street.
“This is wonderful. I hope they do this more,” said Park County resident Linda Yonkers, who braved the cool temperatures and rain to bring her granddaughter Ashley Huffman for their annual trip to the museum.
“I love it here, and having these people here to talk about it just makes it better,” Huffman said as they stood in front of the saloon where author Tara Meixsell, dressed in heavy veiling, related the legend she chronicled in her recently released book. The story centers around Silverheels, the dance hall girl who left town after nursing miners stricken with small pox and was reportedly seen visiting the local cemetery covered by a heavy veil.
A mountain near Fairplay and Alma still bears her name.
Further down the boardwalk, the Marquez family, visiting from Golden, took in the the “color,” as prospector Nate Frohman explained the intricacies of panning for the gold that brought the earliest settlers to Fairplay.
For a time, the town carried the name of South Park City before the moniker returned to Fairplay and miners voted it the county seat.
When citizens of the county decided to bring down old buildings languishing in ghost towns high on the mountains and put them in an area of Fairplay that once burned, folks decided the interim name for the center of the ranching and mining areas was the right one for the museum. Thus, the South Park City Museum.
There are now 38 authentic buildings in the museum as well as old cars, a train engine and myriad antiques, photos, art and artifacts.
Visitors scrambled to sort through the cache of old books the museum was willing to sell. Visitor Greg Van and his two sons wore grins of delight as they purchased a bagful of books published at the turn of the century.
“This is great; look at this one,” Van exclaimed as he showed his boys one book after another.
“People asked why we were selling these, but there is only so much space to store … and they can earn money to keep the museum going,” said volunteer Wanda Butler.
“I am so pleased with our staff and the volunteers,” said museum curator Carol Davis following the event. “Despite the bad weather, it was great.”
She said she already is getting feedback from her volunteers about ways to make the experience better for visitors next year.
Board member Russ Peterson of Evergreen, who donned engineer’s garb and manned the train station, said he was very pleased with the responses of the visitors.
“We want to do more toward making the museum entertaining and educational, and we are doing things to increase awareness of this great museum.”
Perhaps the best compliment the museum received was preteen Huffman’s declaration, “Someday I’d like to be the one to show people around South Park City.”
The South Park City Museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until Oct. 15. Tickets are $6.50 for adults and $3 for children. For information, call (719) 836-2387 or visit http://www.southparkcity.org.
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