Picnic unites old friends | SteamboatToday.com

Picnic unites old friends

Brandon Gee

— Chuck Mack’s parents came to Routt County in 1918. Sitting amongst other guests at Sunday’s Pioneer Picnic, Mack was prompted to say that made them “newcomers.” Many of the picnic’s attendees are the direct descendents of Routt County’s first settlers.

“My parents didn’t come here in a covered wagon,” said Mack, of Craig. “My mom and dad came through Rabbit Ears Pass in a Model T Ford – with no brakes.”

Mack said his father sat down on a log to contemplate how he was going to get his car down the pass.

“Then it dawned on him that he was sitting on his brake,” Mack said.

He said his father tied the log to the back of the car and made his way down the pass. At the end of his journey, there was little left of the rope and the log was smoldering. But he made it.

Stories like Mack’s, most of which involve some element of survival or “making it,” are prevalent at the yearly Pioneer Picnic, and most guests cite the stories as their favorite reason for attending.

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The picnic began a two-year stint in Hayden Sunday at the Hayden Middle School cafeteria. It was hosted by the Hayden Heritage Center. The picnic rotates between Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs every two years.

The picnic’s 40-plus guests were encouraged to bring old photographs and family recipes to share with others at the picnic. On display was a guest list from one of the first picnics in August 1965, when it was known as the “Old-Timer Picnic.” George Temple of Hayden brought an album full of early 1900s photographs that belonged to an uncle. His favorite picture was one from 1927, which showed the Steamboat Springs girls’ basketball team.

“I didn’t know they had girls sports back then from the way they talk now,” Temple said.

Roger Cusick and his wife Joyce have only lived in Hayden for 18 years, but still enjoy attending the picnic. Roger Cusick, a history buff and Hayden Heritage Center board member, said the picnic has often provided information and material that has contributed to the museum.

“I’m real interested in learning the histories of the families,” Roger Cusick said. “I think it’s a real asset to get these old pioneer families together to share their stories, memories and information.”

But as Temple noted, there’s more to the Pioneer Picnic than old pictures and reminiscing.

“The bad thing about something like this is you have too many good foods to choose from,” Temple said. “This is why I came; so I could get something to eat.”

A highlight from the show-and-tell session that followed the meal included Eunice Dorr’s picture of the first train to leave Steamboat Springs in December 1908. Dorr also had the first passenger ticket sold for the maiden voyage.

The only thing missing from the picnic, according to Jo Semotan, are some younger guests. Semotan said she worries about the future of the picnic if that doesn’t change.

“We can’t seem to get the younger generations to get into it,” she said.

Others are less worried. Pat Holderness, of Hayden, said family history is just something people don’t tend to get interested in until they get older.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com