Labor Day festivities have historical flavor in Oak Creek
Oak Creek celebration dates back to town’s mining heyday
Steamboat Springs — Since at least 1913, Oak Creek has attracted throngs of people, residents and visitors, for the annual Labor Day festivities along the streets of the town.
What began as a literal celebration of the holiday brought organizers from each of the local mine unions to speak in the town center. Historian Mike Yurich, with the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg, said he has found photographs as far back as 1913 showing union officials speaking on Main Street.
“It really was important to the men when they started it, and the unions sponsored the celebration actually clear up until the 1950s,” he said.
The “union big shots” would tell miners about the advancements the union had made that year — new protections and benefits, mostly — in a one-day event.
“That was one way of keeping the men aware of the fact that somebody was working for them,” Yurich said.
The population of the Oak Creek area at the time also was larger than it is today, Yurich said, with about 2,000 to 3,000 people in South Routt.
That was also the time the Coal Queen and Princess tradition started, he said. Each of the local mines — mines as far away as Milner, Hayden and Mount Harris often participated, as well — would nominate a girl for the title.
Some of those traditions will continue this weekend as Oak Creek hosts a three-day celebration.
Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel, a member of the Labor Day organizing committee, said organizers knocked down the price of several key events this year and reintroduced a beer garden to help cover the costs.
Last year, a ticket to see a band and comedian cost $20, but this year it’s $8 to see the comedian and $5 to see the band Throwdown, both at the Colorado Bar.
She said the event continues to be a major attraction for the town, both for the businesses and a chance for people to reconnect. The class of 1980, for example, is holding a reunion.
“You can definitely feel the energy and excitement of people in town getting together for it,” she said. “Everybody’s had a hard summer, a busy summer.”
Participants in the parade only need to show up at the 10 a.m. line-up to be entered. Anybody with a float is welcome, Knoebel said, and children in the parade will each get a gold dollar, without even having to mine for it.
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