Cultural, Heritage task forces sets the stage for 2016 progress

The Heritage Culture Center Committee and the Heritage Tourism Task Force have reviewed 2015 and set the stage for 2016. At the annual meeting of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, chairwoman Ellene Meece shared the Strategic Planning Goals for 2016. Those in attendance heard from 13 different organizations presenting ways they can collaborate in telling the county’s heritage story.

The Heritage Culture Center Committee and the Heritage Tourism Task Force have reviewed 2015 and set the stage for 2016. At the annual meeting of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, chairwoman Ellene Meece shared the Strategic Planning Goals for 2016. Those in attendance heard from 13 different organizations presenting ways they can collaborate in telling the county’s heritage story.
The Heritage Culture Center Committee and the Heritage Tourism Task Force have reviewed 2015 and set the stage for 2016. At the annual meeting of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, chairwoman Ellene Meece shared the Strategic Planning Goals for 2016. Those in attendance heard from 13 different organizations presenting ways they can collaborate in telling the county’s heritage story.
MEEKER I The Heritage Culture Center Committee and Heritage Tourism Task Force met Jan. 19 at the Old West Heritage Culture Center to set the stage for 2016.

After committee chairwoman Ellene Meece shared the Strategic Planning Goals for 2016 via a Powerpoint presentation, those in attendance heard from 13 different organizations presenting ways they can collaborate telling the county’s heritage story.
Carly Thomson passed out a flier on the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials Education Outreach, which she directs. She affirmed the Heritage Culture Committee on their presentation at the 2015 event, saying that more than 500 children were served and they have been invited back for three days this year instead of one.
Thomson shared the rave reviews on the Teddy Roosevelt educational piece that was provided.
Mary Cunningham, director of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials, informed the group that Meeker has been selected as the new venue to host the World’s Largest Cattledog Trials.
The National Cattledog Association will have its Meeker Classic Cattledog Trials at Ute Park on June 15-19. Cunningham invited the group to participate with heritage education demonstrations, story time sessions and booths that add to the cultural aspect of the event.
Vanessa Trout, director of Meekerpalooza, enthusiastically promoted the fourth annual event to take place at Ute Park on June 11. She felt the group could add so much to the art and music festival by perhaps providing a virtual historic walk of celebrities from the area for the tourists and visitors.
She also suggested cowboy poetry, heritage day demonstrations and roving historical characters would be perfect in this setting to share our heritage stories.
Gary and Laurie Zellers discussed Art for Kids and how they envision this program could help our kids experience different aspects of art—through partnering with other organizations and bringing in experts in art. At least two summer sessions are being planned for this endeavor.
Ellene Meece shared how the Character Story Hour could be an asset to our young people in our community. She explained the purpose was to connect children with their historical roots and make history fun by introducing them to historical local characters or characters who came to this area and have an intriguing story to tell.
“Story time” readers will relate the story in first person and be dressed to represent their historic characters. Past characters introduced children to Teddy Roosevelt, Susan Wright, Kitty Fairfield and Mary Alsebrook Smith.
Bill Ekstrom, the Rio Blanco County CSU Extension Agent for 4-H and Agriculture, came to the meeting, knowing one of the goals of the heritage center is to bring back the “Cowboy Poet” event.
Ekstrom has been an integral part of those in the past, utilizing them as a fundraiser for the 4-H groups. He shared with the cultural heritage group his vision for the comeback and the logistics involved in making it happen.
Goal No. 1 for the Heritage Culture Center is renovation of the building. The official vision states: “Our vision is to renovate the 1970s building that has been acquired, through partnering with the county, and is debt free to utilize for the Old West Heritage Culture Center in the heart of Meeker, Colorado [517 Park Ave.] and next door to the museum buildings.
“We want to turn the largest room into a mini theater,” it states. “We can see it as the center of heritage demonstrations, genealogy classes, cultural heritage events, history camps, art sessions, and historic presentations—bringing our peers, our children and tourists into the celebration of our heritage roots.”
A culinary fundraiser is being planned for early April to raise money to purchase and install a theater system for the center. Details for this event will be announced shortly, but the goal is to imitate a cooking reality show, inviting local chefs to participate.
Katelin Cook, the Rio Blanco County economic director, was on hand to explain the UTA program—a low-cost planning and design program utilizing students at Colorado University and a DOLA partnership.
The Cultural Heritage Group was successful in raising the grant match to make them eligible for this program and providing a path forward for the first step toward the renovation process—an architectural plan. She explained the MOU was on the agenda for the county commissioners’ meeting on Monday.
Stephanie Kobald, executive director of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce, brought an overview of the Main Street Program and how the group could be a part in making our affiliate position a success.
The program is designed to assist rural communities in revitalization of their downtown areas and to organize their assets and strengths to improve the economy. She also pointed out that it would give us another identification marker and helps pave the way to being a creative district.
Kobald also related to the attendees their goal on the Heritage Culture Committee to create a map of tourism assets in Rio Blanco County.
Lynn Lockwood, a support services specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in the White River National Forest’s Blanco Ranger District, addressed the group about the role the Forest Service can play in telling the story of our land. She expressed her pleasure in seeing what we have done together in the past and how we can collaborate in the future.
Lockwood is on the Strategic Planning Committee for Identification—identifying the assets of our county, along with Kobald.
Bob Amick gave an impressive report on the progress of the Historical District designation process, citing the successful acquisition of an architecture/consultant who will begin work on the project this spring.
Smoking Artisans Coop, a new endeavor in our community, was introduced. Avis Loshbaugh and Vanessa Trout shared their observations on those who are planning to set up booths in the old Neal Building, selling artisan products. Trout talked about her personal investment in starting a wine business—Blanco Cellars—providing small batch, specialty and affordable items.
The final goal discussed at the meeting was agri-tourism.
Besides setting up clusters this year for tourists to come see agriculture and how it works, the discussion turned to bringing back a farmer’s market this summer.
Meeker Town Administrator Scott Meszaros was on hand to give the “Town of Meeker” requirements for such an event.
Ty and Rachel Gates of 5280 Meats, a local meat distribution company, were there to share some of the things they had learned about a local farmers market and how it could work in Meeker.
Feb. 2 is the next Heritage Tourism Workshop at 1:30 p.m. at the Old West Heritage Culture Center.
The focus, according to President Ellene Meece, is “on heritage culture education at the Meeker Sheep Dog Classic, Meeker Cattledog Classic and our Meekerpalooza.”
“Everyone is invited who has ideas and who would like to participate in these projects,” she said.