Having fun as Durango’s founders did

Duane Smith models a historic Chicago Cubs baseball uniform at the Durango Heritage Celebration’s “Victorians & Edwardians at Play: How the West Was Fun” Fashion Show at the Henry Strater Theatre. Sweetie Marbury was dressed for a picnic in the park. Smith’s stalwart Cubs fandom was described by emcee Suzanne Parker as “misguided.” Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Duane Smith models a historic Chicago Cubs baseball uniform at the Durango Heritage Celebration’s “Victorians & Edwardians at Play: How the West Was Fun” Fashion Show at the Henry Strater Theatre. Sweetie Marbury was dressed for a picnic in the park. Smith’s stalwart Cubs fandom was described by emcee Suzanne Parker as “misguided.”

Far away from “civilization” at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries, the founders of Durango had to make their own entertainment – and they did.

Summers, it was picnicking, horseback riding, tennis, hiking, badminton and croquet. Winters, ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing. Oh, and the evenings, everything from balls to dinner parties, variety shows to poetry readings and even edifying lectures for the serious-minded.

So it was a natural this year for the Durango Heritage Celebration to explore the fashion choices of the era in “Victorians and Edwardians at Play: When the West was Fun.”

The fashion show began with a delicious brunch prepared by Strater Catering & Events in the Henry Strater Theatre. An egg casserole, sausage, fruit salad and a cornucopia of baked goods fueled the audience of 60 or so.

The show was very effectively staged, with historic slides of Durangoans at play courtesy of the La Plata County Historical Society and the Animas Museum.

Durango Heritage Celebration Chairwoman Suzanne Parker served as the mistress of ceremonies. The lovely top hat she found in an antique store inspired an elegant riding ensemble.

The models displayed the proper attire for everything from hiking, taking a promenade, going on a bike ride or attending a ball.

They were Dimitri and Chris Schlotter, Kristi Nelson Cohen, Leslie Jackson, Miki Harder, June and Len Hahl, Tom Doak, Nancy Ottman, Guyneth Zimmerman, Karren Little, the ubiquitous Duane Smith, Susie and Dan Ammann, Jeannine Dobbins, Jim and Carol Lewin, Cindy Cortese, Kathy Setka, Bonnie Brennan, Ron Smith and Sonja Bayley-Smith, Becky Cowan, Mary Oyler, Sweetie Marbury, Rani Holt, Aleka Tisdel, Shirley Fleming (in an original vintage lawn dress), Marilyn White, Carleen Utterback, Trudy White, Pat Dworkin, Tom and Dottie Robinson and Mike and Sharon Guli. Wow. If I got all those names right, it’s a miracle.

Among the most memorable moments were the swimming outfits. Zimmerman’s tam was adorable; Dworkin was dressed as Victorians imagined a little boy would be dressed during America’s colonial days (convoluted, I know); Robinson wore their version of a kimono; and June Hahl was garbed in their version of a toga. (The Victorians really loved costume parties.)

Smith, who takes every opportunity to break out his version of an old-fashioned Chicago Cubs uniform, did it again. Parker described his enthusiasm for the Cubs as “misguided.”

Hahl gave us a dramatic reading of a couple of verses from “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. So dramatic she got the hook, literally, by Joaquin Garcia.

The Victorians also entertained their guests with music, singing if someone in the room had a fine voice. This group had Utterback, who gave a lovely rendition of “Melancholy Baby.”

The Gulis, who create and sell beautiful leather goods, lost everything but their studio during the High Park Fire that burned near Fort Collins this summer, and folks who had been through the Missionary Ridge Fire definitely sympathized. The Gulis still had the vim to demonstrate the foxtrot.

Herewith a recap of some of the other highlights of the weekend:

The event began with a few laughs and some lovely music. The music was courtesy of the Six Dollar String Band. The laughs were about the attire of a group from Prescott, Ariz., which has been coming every year. They were having a “pajama party” that night, and wore their jammies to the concert. Keep in mind the Victorians were just as covered up for sleeping as they were in the daytime, so the group was probably less risqué than those attending in modern garb.

The RMS Titanic Dinner, which was held Friday night in the Pullman Room at the Strater Hotel, was a blast – a blast of a ship’s horn, that is. Guests, who were assigned the identity of an actual passenger, arrived to the sound of the horn to see the Titanic lifeboat near the bottom of the stairs. Hmmm, with an unsinkable ship, didn’t really need that.

The Grand View Victorian Orchestra gaily played on, ending the evening with “Nearer My God to Thee,” which the orchestra on the Titanic played as the ship sank. It sent chills down my spine.

I sat next to Margaret Tobin Brown (aka Marbury), who was resplendent in her grandmother’s tiara. (Marbury’s, not Brown’s, grandmother.) She’s “Maggie,” thank you, not “Molly” as the vulgar penny press dubbed her.

Emily Spencer, Strater Catering’s sales manager, and Danica Tarkington, banquet manager, paid a lot of attention to detail. The menu included dishes that might well have been served on the doomed liner, with English pea soup, beef with mushroom sauce, chateau potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, finished off with really good éclairs.

Barbershop quartet First Class Delivery – Carroll “Pete” Peterson, Joel Bratsch, John T. Fox and John Randolph – was in fine voice, singing hits from the charts circa 1912, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Utterback reprised her “Melancholy Baby” and added a lovely rendition of “You Made Me Love You,” another hit of the time.

Kudos to the organizing committee of Parker, Brennan, Bob Kunkel, Al Harper, Smith and Utterback for the fifth successful outing of the event. They accomplished all this on a shoestring, with sponsorships by Conoco Phillips and Rod and Laurie Barker of the Strater.

If you would like to volunteer for or support next year’s celebration, call Parker at 382-9298.

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Enjoying Indian summer birthdays are Pat Garofalo, Andrew Ferguson, Floyd Jaramillo, Travis Dalenberg, Shannon Kunkel, Emily Rohren, George Rose, Benji Mickel, A.J. Folk, Ron Atkinson, Louise Bell, Calvin Buffalo, Matthew Miller, Zachary Haber, Roy McLaughlin and three of my favorite ladies – Sheri Rochford Figgs, Mary Thompson and Joan Rhoades.

Belated wishes go out to Polly Morgenstern.

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Anyone who has a beloved dog or cat knows what it does for your mental health when you walk inside your home to all that love.

For Army Sgt. Maj. David Dantzler, now retired, three Anatolian shepherd mixes he and his unit rescued in Iraq made all the difference in maintaining morale. Then, Dantzler, after months of effort, managed to bring them back from the war-torn country.

He will be the keynote speaker at the La Plata County Humane Society’s Bark & Wine fundraiser Saturday at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Dantzler will sign copies of No Buddy Left Behind, which was written by Operation Baghdad Pups program manager Terri Crisp.

The event also will feature goodies and an extensive silent auction. Tickets are $25 and are available at the humane society, Pet Haus, Maria’s Bookshop or online at www.lpchumanesociety.org.

The money raised at the event this year will go to building a new play yard for the dogs and behavior modification.

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Enjoying beautiful fall weather for their anniversaries are Luis and Jaime Marquez, John and Kay Cooley, Mark and Michelle James, Noel and Virginia Peterson and Ken and Danette Jenkins.

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

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