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Once upon a time, there was a town in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where gold had been discovered and the citizens were very proud of their heritage. It was that discovery that got the …
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Once upon a time, there was a town in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where gold had been discovered and the citizens were very proud of their heritage.
It was that discovery that got the Colorado Gold Rush started in earnest. There was another town nearby where silver had been the driving force, and those citizens also embraced their history. In all the surrounding area, mining had been king in the 19th century.
A local group of history buffs realized the 150th anniversary of the discovery was coming in 2009, so it formed a committee to ensure the event was celebrated appropriately. As the committee began its work, enthusiasm grew and ideas began to take shape. It soon became clear, however, that funding would be necessary to make those ideas into reality. Nearly $50,000 was raised through private and corporate contributions while another $10,000 came from the sale of commemorative merchandise. The committee members knew if they could pull this off, it would be the greatest celebration the town and the county had ever seen.
A king and queen were crowned to rule over all the festivities. With the help of their faithful chauffeur, they even traveled outside the town to represent their subjects and promote the celebration. They radiated regal elegance and charm everywhere they went.
A local filmmaker decided to dust off his unique skills and memorialize the life of the man who made the discovery in 1859. It is rumored his project is so ambitious and of such magnitude that the film is, even now, still in production. Another videographer was hired to record the year’s events for posterity.
Every sort of event was planned, from parades to ice cream socials, music festivals to ball games. A series of historical articles was published in the local newspaper, and the newspaper changed its banner for the year in honor of the celebration. There were special postmarks. School children were invited to participate, and several won prizes for their efforts.
There was even a free barbecue lunch provided at one event. Monuments were refurbished and rededicated, special flags were hoisted and fireworks showered the town with gold. Aside from one day when the heavens produced a downpour, it was all good.
Visitors flooded into the town and that was good. Sales-tax revenues were up, and that was good. Real gold was given away and that, to the winners at least, was very good.
It wasn’t only this small town that celebrated the 150th anniversary of the gold discovery; communities across Colorado got on the bandwagon and planned their own celebrations. Some tried to claim that their community was the site of the first significant gold discovery, but even the state historian said otherwise. The Colorado Legislature passed a resolution in recognition of the historic event and Gov. Ritter signed a proclamation.
From the cold, windy day in January when a miner walked down the main street with his burro and dogs through the beautiful summer days to the chilly evening when the final gold ingot winner’s name was drawn, the year of celebration was a decided success.
Now the anniversary year is past and a new year has begun. Life has quieted down in the town, but the good people who live and work there will always remember 2009 and know they were part of a very special time. The year may be over, but the history lives on.
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