|The second annual Wet Mountain Western Pilgrimage will take place this week, and residents and visitors alike are invited to learn more about the fascinating history of the Wet Mountain Valley by visiting historic sites and attractions related to the Valley’s Ute Indian culture and its ranching, mining and railroad legacies.
This year’s four-day event kicks off in fine fashion this evening, Thursday, Sept. 14, with a Hoedown at the All Aboard Westcliffe complex in downtown Westcliffe.
The event will run from 5 to 8 p.m. and is free of charge.
There will be live music by nationally acclaimed musicians Ron Thomason and Heidi Clare, and by noted Western troubadour R.L. Hayden.
Also on hand will be Teddy Roosevelt, aka Don Moon, who’s making his second appearance at the Pilgrimage.
The Custer County Chamber of Commerce will be selling beer, wine and other beverages, and attendees will be able to purchase beef, brats and sides from Elevation Meat Market.
Additionally, hot dogs will be served free of charge to all kids ages 12 and under. Also, members of the local Amish community will have a variety of desserts, and free cowboy coffee will be served from a historic chuckwagon.
Then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, several local ranches, museums and other sites will open their doors to visitors. (Details can be found elsewhere in this week’s Tribune; please note that times and venues are subject to change.)
Among the highlights:
--All Aboard Westcliffe will be the headquarters for the Pilgrimage, and attendees will be able to purchase one-day or weekend wristbands. Details and maps about the various venues will be available, and tours will be offered of the historic engine house and the D&RG depot, which is currently undergoing restoration.
--The sprawling Bear Basin Ranch east of Westcliffe was a seasonal home to the Ute Tribe, and on the ranch are numerous relics from that era, including various landmarks, spiritual and medicinal trees, and other artifacts. Tours will be led by ranch owners Gary Ziegler and Amy Finger.
--The Beckwith Ranch, along Highway 69 north of Westcliffe, was once headquarters of one of the largest cattle ranches in Colorado. The home and outbuildings of the Beckwith families have been restored and tours will be available. On hand will be Mrs. Beckwith, portrayed by Elizabeth French.
--The Silver Cliff Museum is in Silver Cliff’s original town hall and firehouse, and is filled with artifacts about the region’s rich ranching and mining legacies.
--From the 1950s onward, the Wet Mountain Valley played host to numerous Hollywood film productions, and the 1978 epic Western “Comes A Horseman” will screen at the historic Jones Theater in Westcliffe Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6.
--The former Grange Hall, now Hillside Hall, is new to this year’s Pilgrimage. On Friday, there will be tours of the facility and discussions of the history of Hillside and the Grange movement. On Friday there will be a performance by the troubadour R.L. Hayden; tickets are $20 and light refreshments will be served.
--Also new to this year’s Pilgrimage will be tours of the Amish-owned Westcliffe Meats processing facility, a USDA- certified facility that specializes in local beef, lamb, hogs and poultry.
--The West Custer County Library in downtown Westcliffe will open its doors as well; it’s one of the finest small-town libraries in Colorado and has an extensive Local History Center.
--The historic Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Westcliffe will also be open for visitors; the church was built in Rosita during the mining era and later moved to Silver Cliff before settling in Westcliffe.
--Also new this year will be tours of the Smokey Jack Observatory in Westcliffe. The local Dark Skies organization recently obtained international status for its preservation of dark skies in the Valley and for its various educational and star-gazing pursuits.
--All of these activities certainly work up an appetite, and the local Custer County CattleWomen’s organization will be serving a ranch-style luncheon on Saturday at All Aboard Westcliffe from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
These are just some of the planned events; elsewhere in this week’s Tribune readers will find more details about various Pilgrimage activities.
(Please note that the Music Meadows Ranch and Sangres Best Beef, which helped found the Pilgrimage, will not be taking part in this year’s Pilgrimage due to recent deaths in the family.)