We are so fortunate to have tremendous history in our communities, stories of triumph in hard times and a sense of pride in Rio Blanco County. One tradition that has lasted the test of time is the annual Old Timers celebration. It’s an opportunity to gather with friends to share stories and laughs with those who have made this county their home for more than 30 years.
The Old Timers celebration was the brainchild of the communities’ founding fathers, as far back as five generations in some cases. In reading a list of former presidents of the Old Timers Association, there are few names that do not have family still residing in the area. Reading the list and finding the name of a great-grandparent, aunt or uncle brings back memories and invokes sense of pride in the contributions so many have made.
From the very first president, Frank E. Sheridan, one of Meeker’s founders, to 1944 president Hugh Caldwell, to men like Reuben Oldland, L.B. Walbridge, W.A. Fairfield, George Howey, E.P. Wilbur, Fred Burke, Jay Rector, Jennie Spence, Bud Holland, Josephine Holland, Martha Ridings, Edwin Amick, James Amick, and many more, the names are synonymous with success of Rio Blanco County.
In the 1980s the presidency was assigned to duos willing to keep the tradition alive; names like Dale and Emma Lou Frisby, Bob and Gayle Crawford, David and Sue Ann Smith, Alan and Marge Rogers, Bob and Margie Wilbur, Tom and Ruth Pearce. The list continues to name people who have made great impacts on our communities in various areas, from cattle or sheep ranching to coal mining and local business owners.
The entire 100 year list was printed in the March 15 edition of the Herald Times. This year’s presidents, Connie Theos and MaryAnn Wilbur, are third generation members of the association, working to carry on a tradition that is declining in membership. It is the hope of these presidents to convey a message of pride and cooperation to the communities in order to keep a legendary event going for years to come. The survival of this event depends on the newest generation of qualified members getting involved.
The rules have changed over the years. Members still have to have lived in the county for at least 30 years, but now they are welcome to bring their spouse to the event. Some local hotels are offering a reduced rate the night of June 2. The event will open its doors at 3 p.m. this year with tables set up for interviewing and taking advantage of the remarkable history via individual stories. The hope is to form groups from similar areas talking about their lives, trials and humorous times. The price of admission is $30 which includes dinner and membership. There will be a cash bar provided by the Lions Club and half the proceeds will go to the Old Timers Association. Any pictures of former presidents would be greatly appreciated for a special 100-year slide show and accompanying music for a DVD.
It is the hope of the association to increase involvement, encourage people from Meeker and Rangely to come to the event and enjoy an evening of tradition. It is a call to qualified individuals to carry on an outstanding association that has proven itself over the years. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents created this opportunity to gather, take a break to enjoy good friends and to encourage community pride. Perhaps it is time to recognize and embrace what Old Timers has stood for during the past 100 years. The celebration of contributions of all sorts to our county, the idea that endeavoring to persevere and remaining proud to call this county “home,” and the incredible importance of cherishing our history. Generations before us found it important enough to maintain and support this event. It is the least we can do to carry on a tradition. A tradition that in three years will engulf the sixth generation of the Sheridan family. A tradition that has made friendships lasting 60 years and more. A tradition that brings communities together and individuals from different sectors to the same table, this is a tradition like no other for its longevity, and most importantly for its purpose.
(Photos courtesy of the White River Museum, scanned from “This is What I Remember, Vol. 1”).