Perry-Mansfield finds place in local community’s heart
Steamboat Springs — For over 100 years, Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp has held a
special place in hearts of the Steamboat Springs community, and it was the
community’s love for the camp that saved it in the early 1990s when the financial woes
of Stephens College, which owned the camp at the time, threatened its future.
“The crazy notion that the ladies (Portia Mansfield and Charlotte Perry) came up with in
1913 is still valid today,” said Karolynn Lestrud, a longtime Perry-Mansfield supporter.
“You can still see that magic happening out there today. The people who stepped up
and helped out understand that something extraordinary happens out there every
In the fall of 1990, Stephens College announced it would no longer run the camp and
planned to sell the campus. Following the announcement, Steamboat community
members began forming a group, eventually known as Friends of Perry-Mansfield, to
save the campus.
Lestrud said the memories of those days are kind of a blur because there were so many
“It was totally a grassroots effort,” said Holly Williams, who was Friends of Perry-
Mansfield president at the time.
The effort involved hundreds of people, including Steamboat community leaders, bank
presidents and locals who had either been touched by the camp or just liked the idea of
keeping the performing arts school in Strawberry Park.
“Perry Mansfield has never missed a season in 103 years,” Lestrud said. “It has left a
mark on this community and is viewed as an incredible asset. There was no way we
could simply let it go away.”
On July 22, 1994, Amy Tumminello, who was director of development for Friends of
Perry-Mansfield, deposited a check for $201,000 at the First National Bank, which
represented the group’s final payment to Stephens College. A few days later, more than
200 people showed up on the Perry-Mansfield campus to celebrate the closing by
burning copies of the mortgage in a special ceremony.
Randy Nelson, who played a key role in helping form Friends of Perry-Mansfield and
acted as camp director following the purchase, said despite the turbulence caused by
Stephens’ exit, the situation could not have worked out much better.
“It turned out to be a good deal for everybody involved,” Nelson said. “Looking at in now,
it seems like everything worked out for the best.”
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The Routt County Board of Commissioners is back in the hearing room it vacated when the pandemic sent the world home in March 2020 — and the public is welcome to attend, too.