By Beth Dodd:
Mark your calendars for Victor’s annual Gold Rush Days celebration which returns this year on July 20th, 21st , and 22nd. One of the longest running festivals in the Pikes Peak region, it was first held 117 years ago. Gold Rush Days began humbly as the “World Celebration” in 1895.
Victor residents started the party the summer after the incorporation of their new city in July of 1894. Rancher Victor C. Adams, the new town’s namesake, was the man of the hour. Legend has it that his name was drawn out of a hat at a local bar. The name of the event was soon after changed to the Miners’ Reunion. After fire destroyed much of Victor in 1899, the Miners’ Reunion was discontinued until 1904. Then the party was hosted again every year until 1916, when World War I intruded for a couple of years. It wasn’t until after World War II that the annual town celebration got the name Gold Rush Days. The events over the years have included parades, carnivals, hard rock drilling races, fireman’s races, and even the Ringling Brother’s Circus, which set up its big top at the corner of 4th and Victor in 1904. “This is a very special time for all of us here in Victor and, hopefully, for all of our neighbors, friends, family members, and those visiting the Gold Camp District,” said Ellen Barry, the City of Victor’s Events, Tourism & Visitor Center Coordinator.
The 2012 event kicks off on Friday, July 20, with a Chili Dinner at the Elks Club, a Victorian Olio at the Community Center, and a Street Dance until midnight. The Victorian Olio will be a new event at Gold Rush Days this year. The traditional olio, or audience sing-a-long, began as a way to entertain crowds during set changes in a theater. While stage hands madly rushed to reset the scene behind the closed stage curtains, entertainers out in front would keep the audience busy with singing and short skits. After dancing all night long at the Street Dance on Friday evening, you’ll need a good breakfast. The Victor Fire Department will offer pancakes starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday and again on Sunday. The fire department has been a participant in Gold Rush Days since the very beginning. Back in the old days of hand drawn fire equipment, fire crews from all over the mining district would compete in firemen’s races during the annual Victor celebration.
Once you’ve enjoyed a good feed, you won’t want to miss the traditional Mining Games sponsored by the CC&V Gold Mine starting at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, including the Men’s and Women’s two person hand mucking, Single Hand Steel Drilling, and Jack Leg Drilling. According to Barry, the mining games are a remarkable representation of classic mining skills. For example, in the two person hand mucking event, a team of two people races the clock to fill a mining car with mud and rock and then get it rolling down a track. Turning old mining tradition on its head, as women were once considered bad luck in a mine, both men and women compete in the modern event. If you can pull yourself away from the mining games, you can catch a shuttle to the Tractor Pull at the Heliport at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, or if you prefer local history to heavy equipment, you have several options. The Kids Old-fashioned Games and Watermelon Feed starts at 1:00 at Wallace Park behind the Alta Vista Visitor Center, or you can try your hand at gold panning at the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum. For a closer look at what life was like in the good old days, the Victor Heritage Society will host a Historic Home & Building Tour. For those with the need for speed, the popular Downhill Gravity Race begins at 11:00 on Victor Ave. Competitors will be judged on their creativity and showmanship as well as their time. Then you can put your dancing shoes back on for the Reunion Dance at the Elks Club on Saturday night.
The event wraps up on Sunday with a parade at noon and a Vintage Baseball game in the Gold Bowl. The baseball game, another new event this year, was once a favorite entertainment of the local miners. And of course, vendors will offer your favorite street foods and merchandise all weekend while you enjoy the live entertainment on the outdoor stage at 3rd St. and Victor Ave. “Gold Rush Days is a good combination of plain old-fashioned fun and a great way to get a grasp on Colorado history from the late 1800s,” said Barry. Although the original “World Celebration” began simply as a party to celebrate the birth of the town, today’s Gold Rush Days offers an important boost for local businesses. With the price of gas expected to climb again this summer, it is hoped that more Coloradans will recreate locally and participate in events like Gold Rush Days. Roughly 10,000 people attended Gold Rush Days in 2011, according to Barry. In past years, the local Elk’s Club managed the 3 day event, but they have now passed the baton to the city. Victor has hired Ellen Barry to be their Events, Tourism & Visitor Center Coordinator. Her job includes coordinating Gold Rush Days and other events such as the Gold Camp Christmas, as well as running the town visitor’s center in the old Alta Vista Train Depot on Victor Ave. For more information about Gold Rush Days, visit www.victorcolorado.com or contact Ellen Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (719) 329-8918.