Take a trip through time at Rifle Heritage Days

Rifle Heritage Days Fashion Show contestants showcase their old-school get-ups.
Misty Williams/Courtesy

Victorian hats, fiddlers and some good-old fashioned folk dancing return to Rifle this weekend.

Hosted in accordance with the seasonal opening of the Rifle Heritage Center, Rifle Heritage Days is a way to see what times in Rifle were like before mass communication.

This year, the annual event hosts a contra dance and bake sale from 7-9 p.m. on Friday at the Ute Theater, 132 E. Fourth St. A fashion show and tea party will also be held at the Ute from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday.

The Rifle Heritage Center itself will be open for free tours this weekend.

“Heritage Days was started with the idea of just showing people in Rifle what the settlers and the people that were here first did for fun,” Rifle City Clerk and museum volunteer Misty Williams said. “It was kind of a chance to be able to show people how things were back in the day.”

Friday and Saturday’s festivities also give people a chance to reconnect with the museum — for free.

Participants in a previous Rifle Heritage Days fashion show.
Misty Williams/Courtesy

“It kind of opens it up for people to come and explore the museum because it’s the biggest one in Garfield County, and a lot of people don’t even know it’s here,” she said, adding that there’s more staff and guides helping over the weekend. “They have a lot more staff available as well during Heritage Days to give tours and answer questions.

“But it mainly gives people a little bit of background on how Rifle started and how it built up over the years.”

Saturday’s contra dance does just that. Held inside the Ute Theater, volunteer and museum board member Shirley Lawson said a Grand Junction-based band complete with a fiddler and keyboard player is set to play. There’s also a caller, which directs the audience on which dance to dance next.

“The contra dance is for everybody,” she said. “We have little kids dancing. We have older people dancing. It’s just a really fun time.”

The fashion show and tea party this year places emphasis on hats — instead of clothes.

“Hats have been around since forever, and we have so many fabulous examples at the museum; and it’s fun to be able to do them all the way from Victorian time up into current,” Williams said. “It’s kind of fun to see how they change, and we’ve done clothes for several years, and we thought we would do something different.

“So, we’re going to show off the hats that are the finishing touch on all these ladies’ outfits.” 

With the adjoining tea party costing just $5, she and Lawson expect a good turnout.

“The tea party has been kind of a new thing that we’ve done the past couple of years, and that seems to bring in a lot of people, surprisingly,” Williams said. “We were really surprised our first year — we actually had the entire floor at the Ute completely full.” 

Lawson said the museum will provide hats to visitors. 

From left, Shirley Lawson and Misty Williams demonstrate the sort of historical hats people participating in Rifle Heritage Days will wear this Saturday.
Misty Williams/Courtesy

The Rifle Heritage Center encourages everyone to come dance and show off their fashions this weekend.

“It’s just a fun, fun time to get together and see what goes on at the museum and meet some of the people,” Lawson said. “We need volunteers, and so we always hope somebody will come and decide this is a fun place to volunteer.”

Williams agreed, saying an event like this is important for locals “to remember where we come from.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do is get the message out and have people come down and learn and enjoy history and get the kids involved too,” she said. “Because kids are the ones that are going to be the caretakers of the history and the museum when we’re gone. 

“We’re going to need other people that have the same passion that we do.”

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What: Rifle Heritage Days
When: Contra dance is 7-9 p.m., Friday; fashion show and tea party 2-3 p.m., Saturday; museum tours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, and 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday
Where: Ute Theater, 132 E. 4th St.
How much: $1 encouraged donations for Friday; $5 for Saturday’s tea party

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