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FORT LUPTON — The theme for the 38th annual Trapper Days celebration, “The Fort Lupton Tapestry: A Beautiful Blend of Past, Present and People,” is apt, considering the town itself is a virtual patchwork quilt of varying heritage and historic legacy.
Take the festival itself as an example: Once called Tomato Days in honor of the annual harvesting traditions that would bring the community tightly together at the end of each summer, the festival morphed over the years to include Pioneer Days (another nod to the wild west spirit of the Northern Colorado plains) and, later, Rendezvous Days, a reference to annual gatherings in Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming when trappers would meet and exchange goods. (Consequently, the South Platte River Historical Society’s Trapper Days Rendezvous runs concurrently with Fort Lupton’s famous festival.)
“Trapper Days is our harvest festival, in a sense,” said DebraRay Thompson, director of the Fort Lupton City Museum on First Street. “In the beginning, it highlighted the harvesting of tomatoes. Back then there was a cannery and it took the whole community to put those products together. And so it was a celebration of ‘Look at all we’ve done’ — a chance to let your hair down and celebrate.”
Thompson said the event morphed along with the city: When the cannery shut down, the town moved on to other celebrations.
Today, it’s a celebration of just about everything. While the historic piece is significant — the event has no lack of historic context, from men and women dressed in period clothing to musket demonstrations and tours of the historic fort — there’s a wide assortment of activities that appeal to nearly every demographic or generation.
This year, the event will kick off with fan favorite, the Yellow Ball Classic Tournament, with a 7 a.m. shotgun start at Coyote Creek Golf Course. Meanwhile, first-time event coordinator Mona Sandoval, said about 350 third-graders will tour the Fort Lupton Historic Park and Rendezvous site just north of Fort Lupton. And grownups looking to tour that site need not worry: Sandoval said there will be shuttle runs to the historic fort on Saturday.
Sandoval said pieces of the event like the recreation of historic dress or turn-of-the-century activities help keep the next generation of Fort Luptoners engaged in the city’s past.
But aside from history lessons is a whole lotta fun: An all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast kicks the festivities off on Saturday, a day that also includes a bike and car show, cooking contests, tractor pulls, the Optimist Club-sponsored Ducks Along the Rockies Race and an ice cream social. Wedged in between all that jazz is the keynote event, the Trapper Days parade, which this year will march once again along Denver Avenue. Thompson said past Trapper Days have been held at the city’s rec center, but said she and other organizers were glad to get it back “downtown” where it serves to highlight local business while coinciding with earlier visions of the event.
This year’s parade will include another piece of history, Sandoval said, as parade announcers will speak from atop the marquee of a historic Denver Avenue building that has been recently undergoing renovations aimed at restoring it to former glory. But, she added, that’s supposed to be a secret.
What’s not a secret is Sandoval’s agenda, and that is to spread good cheer and appreciation of the city’s rich history. The first-year organizer already got a sneak peek of how to put together a large-scale celebration when she organized this year’s Old Fashion Fourth of July.
“I definitely learned some lessons from that,” she said.
Sandoval added that she’s getting lots of help from city officials, the Fort Lupton Chamber of Commerce and the LeBlanc family. The LeBlancs will serve as both organizers and honorees, as they will be recognized this year for their tireless volunteer efforts.
Quest students provide this year’s theme
This year’s Trapper Days theme was provided courtesy of Quest Academy students. In searching for theme ideas, Sandoval went to now-former superintendent Mark Payler, who in turn reached out to the district’s schools to solicit ideas.
Quest’s was the chosen entry out of 10, netting the school a $100 reward and the satisfaction of knowing they’re a small part of Fort Lupton’s ongoing history.
“A tapestry is a lovely wall hanging consisting of many various colors of threads to create a beautiful scene,” Dann said. “We feel like Fort Lupton is like this tapestry.”
Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Johnson
at 303-659-2522, ext. 217, or