In the days before Durango had a Day Planner that can run 30 events, summer centered on the Spanish Trails Fiesta, which became the Navajo Trails Fiesta and is now Durango Fiesta Days.
It was the occasion for a new outfit - I was particularly fond of my turquoise and silver square dancing skirt and
top with matching cowboy boots and hat when I was 8 - a chance to see friends and have a hootin', hollerin' Western
good time. (I also remember marching down Main in the kids' parade as Miss America in a swimsuit, sash and high
heels, but let's not go there.)
This year is a special landmark in Fiesta Days' history - its 75th anniversary. A lot of generations have enjoyed
barbecues, street dancing and of course, the award-winning rodeo in a long party that marks the end of July and the
height of summer.
Cindi Brevik, the chairwoman of the Durango Fiesta Days organizing committee, and her crew are gearing up for
an unforgettable Fiesta Days that children today will be talking about decades from now.
One of their first steps was to sift through the event's history to select two grand marshals to represent the
fiesta's long history. They came up with two great ones - Jentra Jarvis Barker and Pat Cugnini.
Although Barker was born in 1930 in Glenwood Springs, she already had deep connections to La Plata County. Her
father's parents, Jim and Ida Jarvis, came to Durango in 1916. Jim Jarvis directed the first movie made
in Durango, also known as Hollywood of the Rockies (at least according to Fred Wildfang), a history called
Love of a Navajo" in 1922.
Her mother's parents lived in Cortez and Bayfield, where they operated grocery and feed stores.
In 1946, Barker's parents moved to Durango, where she graduated from Durango High School in 1948 and was promptly
named the 11th Spanish Trails Fiesta Queen, reigning over the festivities that July. After graduation from Stanford
University, she married Earl Barker Jr. and became the doyenne of one of Durango's most prominent historic
icons, the Strater Hotel.
Fiesta Days are also about our agricultural community, and while farming and ranching isn't as large a sector of the
county's economy these days, they still form much of the character of our community. Barker began riding when she was
3, created many trails in the Haviland Lake area and has spent countless hours exploring the backcountry of Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
Throughout her life, Barker has been active in the community, and she is a great choice for this honor.
Her male counterpart as a grand marshal in this important year is Pat Cugnini. It's safe to say Fiesta Days
wouldn't have made it to this august age without his energy and enthusiasm.
In 1966, the Spanish Trails Fiesta committee wanted to disband because members felt Durangoans no longer supported
the event. Cugnini had been invited to attend a meeting by then La Plata County Sheriff Walt Conrad, and Cugnini found himself volunteering not only to head up the organization efforts for that year but to rebuild the
town's interest in Fiesta Days.
With only a month before show time, this first-generation Cugnini born in America put together a seven-member
committee, Jim Harmon, Clarence Beebe, Larry Simmons, Archie Ball, Carl Snooks, Donnie Farion and himself.
They hit Main Avenue in teams of two, visiting every business to recruit sponsors. All but four businesses signed on.
A trio of supporters secured a line of credit at Burns Bank with the help of Stan Allen. Cugnini, who owned
the livestock auction and sale barn where Home Depot now stands, acquired a little pony and took it along Main, selling raffle chances to win it. (He even took that little pony into the Diamond Belle!)
Cugnini had Native American dancing in the street, sold the concession for the carnival instead of paying a carnival
to come and sold the beer concession. That year, Cugnini made sure everyone - and I mean everyone - paid at the gate.
After a resounding success that first year, Cugnini guided the helm of Fiesta Days for 10 more years, bringing in
pari-mutuel Fair Circuit racing, building new bronco-busting chutes and a tunnel underneath the track to the ball
field and increasing the size of the grandstands and the racetrack. The rodeo drew professional cowboys from all over
Cugnini's son Duane had been helping and found himself being chairman in 1977, when his dad was ready to step
Although I've been honored to be asked to judge the La Plata-Archuleta Cattlemen's Chuckwagon Cook-off during Durango
Fiesta Days for several years, I haven't been participating in other activities in recent years. This year promises
to be a lot of fun, with the traditions of barbecue, street dancing, parade and kids' rodeo, to name just a few. I'll
never forget my dad, Charlie Butler, paying $50 during the pie auction - he was tight with a buck, but he loved pie.
I may be on crutches, but I'll make it to an event or two. (I will spare the community from a reprise of the Miss
Whether you're a newcomer or your family has lived here for generations, take some time to enjoy this Durango
tradition, which will run from July 24 to Aug. 1 this year.
Just as in Pat Cugnini's day, it takes money to put together a week of activities for the community. Cindi Brevik, the chairwoman of this year's Durango Fiesta Days, and other organizers of this year's event will be doing a live
radio remote at Kelly's Cowboy Co. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today on KRSJ-FM (100.5), promoting their first fundraiser
for the 75th anniversary.
Diamonds and Denim will begin at 6 p.m. May 8 and include dinner, a silent and live auction and dancing to Midnight
Backhand. Donations for the auctions are still welcome.
Tickets are available at Kelly's, 400 South Camino del Rio (the stand-alone building at the Durango Mall), at Quien
Sabe? in Farmington and online at www.durangofiestadays.com. You can also check out the schedule for this year on
Not many people can say it snowed on their birthday in May, but these folks might be able to make that claim if the
weather continues in this vein - Lucas Speeder, Eric Hjermstad, Richard Kippen, Collyn
O'Brien, Greg Drover, Alex McLean, Virginia Pewterbaugh, Amelia Best, Katy
Freiberger, Joe Wade Plunk, Charles McMillan, Jan Postler, Elnora Wells, Cora Landgren, Jamie Nelson, Adrian Taylor, Steve Parker, Larry Day, Laura Lewis Marchino, Evan Krispin, Shirley Gale, Dolores Jaye, Bob Barnhardt, Ryan Smith, Deon Mertz, Nick Skahill and Collin Jackson.
Boy, I hope the weather improves, because we're only two weeks away from Taste of Durango, when locals and tourists
alike have the chance to try specialties from many of our community's fine eateries. The event draws thousands of
Because the local chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, which organizes the event, is in the business of
feeding people, it shares the proceeds of the day with another organization that is in the business of feeding people
- Manna Soup Kitchen.
Last year, the soup kitchen received more than $11,500 from Taste of Durango, much needed funds in these hard
economic times. This year, when it is serving 30 percent more meals and giving all kinds of other support to those in
need, the money is needed more than ever.
As the recipient of the association's largesse, Manna is responsible for supplying about 200 volunteers to help run
the event. Jobs include setting up, trash duty, street marking, handling money, clean up, moving equipment, helping
restaurants that are serving, distributing wristbands, monitoring alcohol consumption, watching the gate, security
and much more.
While a number of people have already volunteered, many more are still needed. When I attend Taste of Durango, it
looks like everyone, attendees, restaurant personnel and volunteers are all having a great time. If you can give an
hour or two or stay for all the fun, call Manna's new Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Taylor at 385-5095 or e-mail
her at Admin.email@example.com.
The folks at the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 507 are continuing to step up their charitable
endeavors, and I just want to make sure they know their efforts are appreciated.
On Sunday, the lodge held its first ever charity pool tournament. All players who signed up paid their entry fees, and each selected the good cause they preferred. After the tournament is over, the money raised goes to the winners'
Six teams of two competed in the event, and winners Ray Vigil and Miquel Gallegos, raised $180 for the
Manna Soup Kitchen (see previous item). Several local businesses donated prizes, so the winners also went home with
Thanks to Elks Club Manager Faye Harmer for giving me the heads up.
Thanks to all those avid readers out there who supported the Friends of the Durango Public Library's Book Sale last
Thanks to you, the second sale in a row, it took in a record amount. Now imagine a drum roll "font-family: Symbol;">¼ and the money raised came to $6,346.50, which comes to a lot of
books when you calculate that most of the books went for $1.50 per pound. (The previous record was $6,250.25 at the
November sale, and it beat that by almost $100.)
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a lot of volunteers to put on a book sale with more than 20,000
books. Sheryl Ayers and Lela Boyer proved themselves organizers extraordinaire.
Jay Culver and his crew of movers delivered all the books from the storage unit and storeroom. Steve
Redding kept the volunteers fed with sandwiches from his Subway at the Walmart Plaza, and all kinds of people
volunteered for the first time.
With all the budget cuts, the Friends are paying for some services we have all taken for granted as being a standard
part of the library offerings. I'm looking forward to trying the Mango programs they have signed up for people who
want to learn foreign languages, and the Friends have brought many a wonderful program in for children and adults
I would handwrite a thank you note, but I have this big pile of new books to read, so "font-family: Symbol;">¼
Celebrating their anniversaries and hoping the weather won't be arctic conditions are Clark and
Caroline Kinser, Roy and Janie McLaughlin, Randy and Molly Bondow, Bill and Jan Postler, Scott and Trish Sohlé, Andy and Cyd Peterson, Brian and Kathleen Epp, Joe and Daphne D'Agostino, Jo and Dianne Milarch
and Kevin Jones and Donna Suggs.
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
How to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; fax 259-5011; mail items to the
Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. If you are submitting an item for preview, please send it with
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