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It was a wild Fourth of July weekend all around Rio Blanco County with the four-day celebration of the holiday beginning Friday night at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds with “the Pageant,” a 100-person-plus re-enactment of issues leading up to and including the Meeker Massacre, as well as Rangely kicking off its celebration Friday, Saturday and Monday with a round of Night Golf at Cedar Ridges Golf Course.
As the Pageant was being set up, Meeker saw a downpour that continued until just before the start at 9 p.m. From early evening, the arena looked like a lake, the track looked like a river and the entire area was filled with foot-deep loose, sloppy mud.
Just as the event started, the rain kicked back to about medium, keeping those with umbrellas happy they had them and the majority of spectators sitting up higher in the grandstands.
Except for the poor actors out under the stars, it was a quite pleasant evening overall. Cool with just a little breeze and quite pleasant—until it was time to return to your vehicle.
If you had to cross the track or anywhere else where there wasn’t pavement, it was quite a challenge.
But those who put on the Pageant, the actors who carried out the Pageant and those volunteers who had thick, sticky mud up to their knees did a tremendous job of getting through the presentation.
A slightly new script brought the key and important parts of the story out quite clearly yet it seemed to add a couple of touches of humor that were not present in the past three years I have seen the production.
Once again, the production was well done from beginning to end, and it solidified its place in my heart as a production that anyone who cares at all about Western history truly ought to see at least once.
There very definitely are two sides to the Meeker Massacre, and it is nice to see a bit of both sides. The reality of the situation comes to light where neither side was totally in the right nor totally in the wrong.
It is also nice to know that the story as told at the pageant over the past few years has been changed to offer a more balanced account of the real happenings around the massacre.
Job well done, folks. Keep it up and spread the word!
The luck of Meeker held out Saturday night as well.
On Saturday evening at about 5 p.m., just after opening the gates to the two concerts at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds that night, the heavens opened again. For nearly 45 minutes the hundreds of people in the audience moved into the old exhibit hall to get out of the deluge or the few holdouts climbed underneath their wide array of umbrellas.
It poured, turning everything into a muddy, sloppy mess around the field and stage and over toward the new 4-H building that housed the bands until ready to go on stage and over toward the old 4-H exhibition hall, where the Meeker Lions Club was selling beer and food by large quantity.
With Ned LeDoux due to begin at 7 p.m., the skies broke about 6:45. It stayed overcast, dark and ominous to the south but never again dampened the audience despite a couple visits of about 10 drops each.
On time, LeDoux and his band hit the stage and took off flying.
Being a newspaper editor or publisher in Wyoming from 1975 until 1993, I had many an opportunity to meet and hear Ned’s dad, Chris LeDoux, who lived the small town of Kaycee, in north-central Wyoming.
While it was common to see and talk with Chris, his personal life was pretty well kept to himself. I knew he had at least one kid, but I never had heard the name of Ned LeDoux until the past month or two, when it was announced he would be playing at Meeker’s Range Call.
OK, now I have seen Ned. And, as the ole saying goes, “An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Very true!
Chris was one of the nicest guys one could ever meet. He was cordial, he was polite, he never met a person he didn’t like and he just liked the good things that a quiet life in Wyoming could bring him.
He was a champion bareback rider in 1976 but few people knew he was a songwriter, a sculptor and a champion bareback rider until later. He turned out 36 albums that sold 6 million copies and he died of a rare form of cancer in 2007 after fathering five children—one named Ned.
To know Chris is to know a lot about Ned. He sounds a lot like his dad on a number of his dad’s songs, he has the same soft good looks like his dad and he seems to be the gentle gentleman his dad was.
Ned told story after story of his dad and how he used to work with his dad, write songs with his dad and even wrote the song “Hawk,” which he performed on Friday night and which produced more than just one or two tears in the audience. The song states that Chris always dreamed that he could fly and wanted to be like the hawk.
Ned said that there really weren’t many hawks on the family ranch in Wyoming and that he rarely saw a hawk on the ranch in Kaycee—when all of a sudden, within three days of Chris’ death, a hawk appeared on the ranch—and remains to this day.
Ned thrilled the audience, which kept one eye toward the dark and lightning-filled skies up above, but the clouds stayed just far enough away that LeDoux finished and went off into the cool, damp night, leaving memories of his dad behind and a concert that many will long remember as well.
Blackhawk is a loud, high-powered band that also generates enthusiasm, high energy and a desire to participate.
I must admit I was not a country music fan from the beginning. My heydey was in the Seventies and leans more toward folk music and light rock.
I never did like the old Bill Monroe and Hank Williams Sr. much. I could watch an occasional “Hee-Haw” and could tolerate Buck Owens while I did kind of enjoy Roy Clark, who I have seen in person twice.
I wouldn’t want a steady diet of Roy either, but I really did start my like of country music with the advent of Barbara Cantrell and Reba McIntyre, both of whom I saw at the Carroll County (Ark.) Fair in back-to-back years in the mid-1970’s. Then Garth Brooks entered the scene and country music took on a new sound; a new energy that got away from old twang that I just didn’t like growing up as a kid in hard-rock Boulder, Colo.
As I have gotten older, I have grown a new respect for a lot of country western music. Now while I would rather listen to the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll as well as folk music from that time, I do now find myself enjoying a lot of country music.
I found Blackhawk quite enjoyable to listen to.
Then I started to look at them about halfway through their set on Saturday night as if they were one of the hard-driving rock bands of the late ’60s and early ‘70s with the lyrics, the melodies and the tunes being sung like a country song.
To me it was most enjoyable.
There is no question the folks at the concert found Blackhawk a joy to listen (and dance) to, and they stuck there until the end, quite appreciative and quite enthusiastic.
And then it rained like all hell again—with Meeker having lucked out and escaped what could have been a disaster—like raining out the Pageant or the LeDoux/Blackhawk concerts.
But it didn’t. The sun of good fortune was once again shining on the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds and Range Call.
When I first moved here, I heard that Meeker had one of the best Fourth of July fireworks shows around.
Personally, in 2013, my first year here, it was OK, followed in 2014 by a bit of disappointment and in 2015 by more disappointment.
The 2016 show was tremendous. It only lasted 20 minutes, but it was much more impressive than shows I have seen in years. Three times I heard people near me wonder if that last big display was the grand finale.
The grouping was done with great expertise, the rhythm of the fireworks kept people tuned into the show and most comments I heard called Monday’s night’s show the best in years.
Something to consider is to make the fireworks show a year-long fundraiser event for all in the Meeker area, and it would be surprising for many to see how little more money it would take to turn the yearly show into a monster of a show—one of the tops if not the best on the Western Slope.
Good job with the show on Monday night. It was really well done.