Reliving Steamboat’s first Fourth
Local storyteller to recount area's inaugural Independence Day celebration
Steamboat Springs — For anyone who’s ever watched the Fourth of July fireworks dazzle the night skies above Emerald Mountain and wondered how Steamboat Springs’ earliest pioneers might have celebrated the nation’s independence will be given the opportunity to find out this weekend.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, local resident, history interpreter and storyteller Marianne Capra will bring the tale of Steamboat’s first Fourth of July celebration to the Bud Werner Memorial Library lawn, which is believed to be the site of the inaugural event.
The year was 1876, the centennial of the United States’ birth, and Colorado was still several months from becoming the 38th star on the nation’s flag. Appropriately, Capra said, her presentation — titled “Flag for the Fourth: The True Story of Steamboat Springs’ First Independence Day” — focuses on that flag, which was the centerpiece of Steamboat’s first Fourth of July celebration. She recounts the story of how the Crawfords acquired the flag, what it meant to them and why they chose to celebrate it.
She added the story also relates how the first celebration was nearly derailed on the very day it was supposed to occur and the interesting “twist” that saved the holiday at the last moment.
Capra, who hails from Iowa and relocated to Steamboat 15 years ago, said she became enamored with the story after reading an account of the event published in a booklet titled “Crawford Pioneer Tales” by Lulita Crawford Pritchett, granddaughter of original Steamboat pioneers James H. and Margaret E. Crawford.
The story “sent fireworks shooting off in my mind,” she said and led her to conduct extensive research using Steamboat Pilot archives and numerous resources detailing the Crawford family’s early days in the Yampa Valley.
Drawing from these and other sources, she crafted “Flag for the Fourth” while participating in NaNoWriMo, an annual novel writing project. Bud Werner Memorial Library adult programs coordinator Jennie Lay saw the piece and suggested Capra present it as a story for this year’s Fourth of July festivities.
Sunday’s presentation will mark the first telling of the tale.
Capra said she’s been telling stories throughout her career — both as a cultural historian and an interpretive ranger — though she added she didn’t always think of what she was doing as “storytelling.”
“It’s not like anyone really calls that ‘storytelling,’ but basically, it is, right?” she said.
She also gained experience telling stories through her association with the local chapter of the national storytelling group, “Spellbinders,” and now routinely tells stories at area elementary schools.
Capra will present a five-minute version of “Flag for the Fourth” before the start of the Fourth of July parade, set for 10 a.m. Monday on Lincoln Avenue.
Sunday’s event is free, and attendees are invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets, picnic meals or snacks.
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