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Editor’s Note: This article was originally printed in the 2013 Septemberfest section of the Herald Times.
RANGELY I Over the course of its history, Septemberfest has evolved in unforeseen and often colorful ways.
And, as long-running events in a community tend to do, the event’s history and past have begun to take on subtle qualities of legend, with people remembering aspects of it differently from one another.
Which only, in the humble opinion of this reviewer, lends the thing more interest and fun.
When the event officially began, for instance, is a matter of good-natured contention. Well-known local Barbara Wade maintains that Rangely’s first Septemberfest launched as early as 1976, when she and Flossie Eddy took it on.
Local historian Bob Haag and longtime Rangely Town Manager Don Peach recall its originating in the early 1980s, with Rangely Area Independence Days (RAID) and bicentennial events happening in the late 1970s.
Whatever the case, one of the richest periods of Septemberfest’s existence evolved as Wade and Eddy chaired the event and then, after Eddy moved to Grand Junction, as Rangely resident Brenda Ahrens took on added responsibility.
“Why did I do it? I did it because it was fun,” Wade said. “Flossie and I had a ball doing it.”
In the 1980s, Rangely’s town square was the center of much Septemberfest action. It was where dances and entertainment happened, complete with a stage built next to the library for performers.
It was also where town trivia and Septemberfest’s “challenge nights” took place.
“You would pay $1 to challenge somebody to do things, like dancing the hula,” Wade recalled. “I remember once the mayor had to push his wife down Main Street in a wheelbarrow. We used to say the police would come and bring you there if you’d been challenged and didn’t show up.”
Local doctors rose to the challenge of riding stick horses while singing “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Wade said, while town officials occasionally submitted to pies in the face. Rarely did anyone fail to accept or carry out a challenge.
An established Septemberfest tradition until the event changed hands in the early 2000s was the Elks Park Talent Show, which featured an Ace West semi-truck trailer as the stage for performers of all ages (but mostly singers). Local high school instructor Mildred Sims would lead audiences in “The Rangely Song” to commence the show, another tradition that has since died out.
Ahrens and Wade spent plenty of time asking for donations locally and in nearby towns for prize giveaways or contest awards.
“Helping plan Septemberfest was definitely worth it,” Ahrens said. “For one, I enjoyed working with Barbara Wade because she’s such a character. And, of course, (daughter) Miranda sang (at the talent shows), so I was involved anyway. I figured I might as well help out.”
Parades have long been part of the Septemberfest mix, and for years, they began with resident Wayne Nickson singing the Star-Spangled Banner via loudspeaker. Horses were always first to lead the charge down Main Street, but that changed after participants requested to be in front of the inevitable droppings.
On Labor Day, high school teenage girls would answer interview questions and perform a talent before one of them would be crowned Septemberfest’s Miss Rangely (one of whom was Wade’s own daughter, Cheri). On that day, too, the winner of the locally voted-on Prettiest Baby Contest won accolades.
And there’s more: over the years, rodeos, demolition derbies and firefighters’ hose competitions have all had their place in Septemberfest, Peach said. One tradition that has endured over the decades Peach admits he came up with: the Sunday afternoon ice cream social.
“There were all kinds of events that people took on their own and added,” Peach said. “A lot of volunteers and groups have contributed over time.”
Above all, Wade and Ahrens recall the strong sense of community that accompanied Septemberfest during its evolution in those early years.
“That was all the fun of it,” Wade said.