Strawberry Days marshals truly are ‘rock stars’
Two of this year’s Strawberry Days Parade grand marshals have made a living mining rocks and/or exploring underground rock formations, while a third has been announcing the annual parade for the same number of years — 50 — as a certain rock ‘n’ roll band is celebrating with a farewell concert series this summer.
The theme for the 118th Strawberry Days festival, taking place this Friday through Sunday, is “Glenwood Rocks.”
Fittingly, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association chose longtime Mid-Continent coal mine owner John Reeves; Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park owner and oilman Steve Beckley and his wife, Jeanne; and longtime parade announcer and “Western Living” TV show host Jeannine Ford Artaz as this year’s grand marshals.
“‘Glenwood Rocks’ can be taken literally to mean the rocks in the Glenwood Canyon or at Glenwood Caverns, or it can be taken figuratively to mean that our town ‘rocks,’” Chamber CEO Marianne Virgili explained.
“We choose grand marshals to go with the theme, or if there is a community member who obviously deserves recognition,” she said. “In this case we knew it was Jeannine’s 50th, and one of John’s neighbors had called me last year to suggest him for future consideration.
“He was a good fit for the rocks theme, as were the Beckleys,” Virgili said, noting that Reeves and the Beckleys also have an entrepreneurial connection.
Last year, the Beckleys partnered with Mogli and Coop Cooper to purchase the Iron Mountain Hot Springs property, and are in the process of redeveloping the hot springs that for decades had been owned by one of Reeves’ business ventures, Pitkin Iron Co.
Steve Beckley said he was very touched to be honored alongside Reeves.
“He is a wonderful guy, and it’s certainly a great honor to be a part of the festival celebration with him,” Beckley said of Reeves, who will turn 90 in August.
Beckley made a living in the oil business for several years before arriving in Glenwood Springs in the late 1990s with his new wife, Jeanne, to reopen the long-closed Fairy Caves beneath Iron Mountain to the public. The popular attraction has expanded in the years since to include a variety of cave tours and several amusement park rides.
Reeves said he was surprised and honored as well upon being asked to be a grand marshal for this year’s Strawberry Days Parade.
“I’ve been kind of out of the picture since the coal mines shut down in 1991,” he said during an interview this week at his home in Oak Meadows south of Glenwood Springs where he resides with his wife, Jackie.
“It’s quite flattering that people are still thinking of me after all these years,” Reeves said.
Reeves came to the area in 1957 to manage the Mid-Continent coal mines in Coal Basin west of Redstone for then-owner L.S. Wood.
The mines operated for 34 years, producing 23 millions tons of coal before a series of financial hits and a devastating underground fire forced the mines to be shut down in 1991. Reeves chronicled his years operating the Mid-Continent mines in his 2012 book, “The Mines of Coal Basin, 1956-1991 — The Untold Story.”
Reeves also operated Pitkin Iron Co. for many years, handling most of the geology work at an iron deposit mine near Ashcroft.
Ironically, Steve Beckley shares a birthday with the other of this year’s grand marshals, Ford Artaz. The two celebrated together on May 22 at the Adventure Park.
“It’s just such an honor, and I just love this city so much,” said Ford Artaz, who also was honored as a Strawberry Days grand marshal on the occasion of her 75th birthday in 2004.
Now 86, she’s a staple each year in front of the reviewer’s stand near 14th and Grand on Saturday morning of Strawberry Days, announcing the parade live on local Cable Channel 10. Ford Artaz and colleague Paul Vandre have been partners in the TV station for 30 years.
“I can’t believe it’s been 50 years of announcing the parade,” she said. “It’s worth it living this long and doing something like that for as long as I have, particularly in this wonderful community.”
Longtime local Doug Larson will handle the announcing duties for the first part of the parade this year. But Ford Artaz has arranged for a ride back to the reviewer’s stand to continue her duties after she completes her marshal’s duties.
“I just feel so privileged,” she said.
As for sharing a 50th anniversary with a certain iconic rock band, that would be the Grateful Dead. It’s a fitting segue once Strawberry Days is over to the next big summer festival in the lower Roaring Fork Valley, Carbondale’s Mountain Fair.
This year’s Mountain Fair is set for July 24-26, with the theme “Eyes of the World,” in honor of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary “Fare Thee Well” shows in California and Chicago in late June and early July.
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