There are certain things one comes to expect from spring in Durango - crocuses emerging after a hard winter, tennis
players hitting their first balls of the season and the historical fashion show at the Strater Hotel. Mrs. Camp's
Town Ladies and Gents are responsible for the latter, and they did a bang-up job again this year.
Playing to a standing-room-only crowd April 15 at the Henry Strater Theatre, their show was called Reflections of
the Past: The Grand Ball." The show was produced by one of Mrs. Camps' founders, Ricci Dawson, and
written by Suzanne Parker.
The action centered on a Durango seamstress shop owned by Mademoiselle Suzette, whom Parker played as the narrator.
Duane Smith, local historian and member of the group, introduced the show by describing the life and
times of Durango at the end of the 19th century.
The time was the 1880s and 1890s in Durango. Society ladies and gents, including town entrepreneurs the
Camps, Gradens and Kruschkes, military officers from Fort Lewis
College and management from the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and their wives prepared for balls held at the
Redmen's Lodge, the building where the Red Snapper is now located.
The show included 10 scenes, from ladies shopping for ball gowns in Mademoiselle Suzette's shop while she complained
about her assistant Diane Welle, who kept swigging from a flask, to a display of gentlemen's day and
evening wear. A highlight of the gentlemen's scene included Les Hahl, Tom Doak and
Rod Barker, owner of the Strater. Hahl was sporting a walking stick, recently purchased by Barker, which had originally belonged to A.P. Camp, Durango's first banker.
Another scene involved the undressing" of a lady to display what Mme. Suzette described as the foundation garments
that are required to achieve the true Victorian silhouette." (Ooh, la, la.) Kathy Setka was the good
sport who allowed herself to be disrobed as June Hahl, Laurie Barker and
Kristi Nelson Cohen in their 1880s bustle outfits looked on. Although it surely would have been
risqué 130 years ago, Setka was still garbed in tights, chemise and the infamous Victorian drawers at the end of the
Marv and Pat Dworkin modeled in a scene of 1880s men's and women's daywear, and
Nancy Ottman, Annie Johnson, Leslie Jackson and Carol
Bruno presented 1890s women's wear, with Jackson in an authentic 120-year-old ensemble. Dawson and
Niles Bruno depicted a couple using the Language of the Fan to engage in some hanky-panky at an
1880s ball, shocking the seamstress who had just described the stringent rules of Victorian society.
A lovely new feature this year was three scenes demonstrating Victorian dances. The Grand March began every Victorian
ball and was performed by Dan and Susie Ammann, Jim and
Carol Lewin, Ralph and Carleen Utterback, the Barkers, Bonnie Brennan and Marv Dworkin, Setka and Doak, and the Brunos, covering the stage with swirling
skirts and elegant tuxedos. The second dance was the Spanish Waltz, which isn't a waltz at all.
Frank and Ricci Dawson and Brennan and Doak danced the form, which is two couples
facing each other. And the finale was the true waltz, sweepingly and beautifully performed by the Utterbacks.
While not in the performance, Bobbi Black, Terri Wheeler and Marilyn
White passed top hats and parasols for donations to help fund the Durango Heritage Celebration, which will
take place Oct. 7-10 this year. If you missed the show, the group will reprise it during the celebration.
The fashion show put on by Mrs. Camp's Town Ladies and Gents accompanies the Strater Hotel's annual open house. This
year, it took place April 15 and included Strater staff members dressed in period costumes to enhance the ambience.
More than 300 people enjoyed the tours of both public rooms and hotel rooms during a period of about two and a half
There was a villain running around to celebrate the return of the melodrama this summer, and author
Phil Aleo, who wrote the new The Strater Hotel Story, was on hand to sell
books and sign autographs.
Rod and Laurie Barker, owners of the hotel, put out a buffet featuring food from
all the outlets in the hotel, including the Mahogany Grille, Diamond Belle Saloon, the Office Spiritorium and 1887
Catering, including two of my favorites, mini-Steak Herberts and duck tamales.
My thanks go to Michelle Thom for filling me in on this segment of the evening, and her husband, Bob Thom, for providing the photograph.
Breezy, snowy, rainy, sunny birthday wishes (who says you can't have it all?) go out to Mary Ann
Craig, Aeneas McBrayer, Donna Jean Hensley, Nancy Carr, Mark Mishou, Phyllis Hoyt, Kathy Ingalsbe, TomHartnett, Jim Winkelbauer, Katie Benner, Hayden Stanes, Alex Workman, Mark James, Saylor
Stottlemeyer, Ryan Slater, Ethan Johnson, Hannah Helms, Sonja Smith, Deanna Schardt, Bob Riggio, JohnSandhaus, Vicki Ochocki, Sandra LeFevre, Bonnie Brennan, Sandy Sunderland, Sophie Brilland
Many congratulations go to Philip Mann, who has been named the new music director and conductor of
the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Mann, son of former Dean of Arts and Sciences at Fort Lewis College
RochelleMann, is Durango's own Rhodes Scholar. He is currently finishing up a stint
as an American Conducting Fellow and assistant conductor of the San Diego Symphony, where he has conducted more than
150 concerts ranging from masterworks and pops and Kinder Konzert.
Mann was the unanimous choice of an 11-person selection committee that included ASO musicians, board members and the
executive director using surveys collected from the audience and orchestra. He has been given a five-year contract
that begins this fall.
This is a bittersweet choice for Durango's classical music lovers, who essentially had two horses in the race. San
Juan Symphony Musical Director Arthur Post also was a finalist for the position. He's also in the
running for a couple of other symphonies, so we'll keep our fingers crossed for him.
It is a rare Neighbors column that does not include a story about a local nonprofit. The ultimate nonprofit is, of
course, United Way of Southwest Colorado, which raises money for almost 90 programs across five counties: La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta, San Juan and Dolores.
During its 2009 campaign, United Way raised $715,000, with the monies raised in each county going to programs in that
county. The organization's annual awards were given via a radio broadcast on KIQX-FM (101.3) for the second year in a
BP and First National Bank of Durango won the Spirit Award, United Way's top honor for local businesses, for the
third year in a row. Joining them in 2009 were La Plata Electric Association and the Southern Ute Tribe. Combined, the employees of these organizations and the organizations themselves donated almost $170,000.
Four Corners Broadcasting was recognized for 13 years of partnership with United Way on the Radiothon, which raises
more than $50,000 every year.
Wells Fargo Bank also received special recognition. In 2009, it was the title sponsor of the United Way and Durango
High Noon Rotary Club's annual golf tournament. Employees of Wells Fargo who give a certain amount are given a day
off from work, and Wells Fargo employees also donate their time to United Way in leadership roles.
A few days before the local Wells Fargo was recognized, the entire company was honored by United Way Worldwide. It
received United Way's Spirit of America Award, because all of the Wells Fargo employees gave more to United Way
chapters than any other business in the U.S. They pledged a whopping $41.9 million in 2009. In addition to the
monetary support, 32,000 Wells Fargo employees volunteered more than 1.23 million hours to their communities last
Clara Cardoza of Williams and Don Mapel of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Durango were
the winners of the Silent Hero Award. Christi Zeller with the La Plata County Energy Council was
given the Board President's Award. Dave Cuntz, executive chef of Mahogany Grille, won best
professionally prepared soup at First National Bank's Sip to Soup-port event, where Cathy Wilson was
the most talented amateur.
Chessa and Jay Gill received the Jim Child Excellence Award. A
number of businesses won for leadership awards and most donated per capita, proving true once again the statistic
that La Plata County residents give more per capita than any other county in the state.
Thanks to everyone for their contributions to this very important organization.
Enjoying greening grass and bright yellow daffodils for their anniversaries are Vanand Mary
Butler, Billand Pam Brown, Tomand Kim
McCarl, Mikeand Kelly Somsen, Jamesand Ami
Reed, Fredand PaulineEllisand Kermitand
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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