VIPs get a lift from (and to) adventure park opening ceremony |

VIPs get a lift from (and to) adventure park opening ceremony

Lynn BurtonPost Independent Staff

Historic occasion that it was, Congressman Scott McInnis couldn’t resist a little neighborly humor at Friday’s preliminary grand opening ceremony for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.More than 200 invited guests stood in the warm sun at the Iron Mountain Tramway base terminal, sipping champagne from sparkling glasses, while beaming community dignitaries made brief remarks.McInnis, a Glenwood Springs native, started his address by joking that the Hot Springs Pool might want a tramway spur to swing by its place one of these days. After that, he looked over at tramway co-owner Chuck Peterson and urged him to take the first ride up Iron Mountain.”Wave a flag when you get up there, so we’ll know it’s OK to come on up,” McInnis said to the chuckling crowd.It turned out Caverns owners Steve and Jeanne Beckley, Glenwood Springs Mayor Don Vanderhoof and his wife, Eddi, and 89-year-old Nick Darrow, grandson of original Caverns owner Clarence Darrow, made that first trip. No flags were in evidence.During the next two hours, clusters of VIPs boarded the eight tramway cabins for the seven-and-one-half minute cruise to the visitor center and Exclamation Point restaurant on top of Iron Mountain. One of the first people the visitors met there was KMTS news director Ron Milhorn, microphone in hand, ready for interviews.”I’m getting a lot of `Wows,’ and `Spectaculars,'” Milhorn said after the first wave of VIPs settled inside Exclamation Point and spilled onto its decks.Earlier, during the dedication ceremony at the base, Mayor Vanderhoof, Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association director Marianne Virgili, Steve and Jeanne Beckley, and Chuck Peterson gave short speeches before the tramway operators pressed the switches to get the lift’s multi-ton bullwheel turning.Vanderhoof described a historic photograph of the Hot Springs Pool founders when they started building the pool 110 years ago. Comparing that turn-of-the-century photo to the Adventure Park and tramway opening, he said, “Glenwood Springs is fortunate to be the beneficiary of this for the next 100 years.”Jeanne Beckley told the crowd the party was a “thank-you” to everyone who helped make the tramway and Adventure Park happen.Garfield County Commissioner John Martin handed Steve Beckley a certificate of occupancy as he climbed into the first gondola, while Peterson spewed a celebratory bottle of champagne safely away from onlookers.”I’d never done that before,” Peterson said later.Most of the tramway passengers were taking their first trips Friday, and it was quickly obvious it will require more than one ride to take in the views. Within seconds of leaving the terminals, riders look down more than 100 feet to Highway 6 & 24 below. Seconds after that they are skimming just a few feet above the scruffy pions that blanket Iron Mountain.The first guests to enter Exclamation Point restaurant headed straight for the Winter Garden deck that looks down on Glenwood Springs. The Jeannie Walla Band was playing quiet jazz in the deck’s sheltered southwest corner.”I’d like to play here every Friday night,” said pianist Tim Fox of Carbondale, as the band reassembled after a short break.While guests feasted on the 180-degree views of Glenwood Springs, they also gobbled up buffet tables loaded with appetizers, including marinated salmon, octopus with a calamata olive oil sauce, stuffed mushrooms with feta cheese or escargot and mixed mushrooms sauted in merlot wine.The tasty hors d’oeuvres earned rave reviews from hungry guests. “We’ve been working on these for two days,” said kitchen manager Ricardo Chavez during a brief deck tour.While some guests gazed down on town from the restaurant’s two decks, searching for familiar landmarks, Glenwood Springs native Floyd Diemoz looked straight across the valley at the old ski area on Red Mountain, and told an old-timers story.”When the quakies above the ski area on Red Mountain start to leaf out, that’s when you should start to plant,” Diemoz said. “That’s still pretty good advice. Now, people can come up here to decide when to plant.”As the afternoon turned to early evening, and the temperatures dropped a bit, guests crowded back inside the restaurant and continued munching, sipping and talking. To escape the crowd, a handful of guests ventured into the Caverns gift shop, where store manager Jeannie Russell and sales clerk Fran Mills were geared up for action.”The first things we sold were two helmets for kids,” Russell said.”They are spelunkers helmets,” Mills added.

Late in the day, when shadows and haze outlined mountain contours west of Glenwood Springs, Delta resident Nick Darrow made his slow exit. Although Darrow’s grandfather homesteaded the Caverns property and operated it as a tourist attract for a time, the younger Darrow never got to tour it.”My mom died in the flu epidemic in 1920, and we moved to Redcliff,” said Darrow, a retired attorney.Darrow practiced law in Glenwood Springs until 1948, then moved to Delta. On Friday, he seemed impressed with the Adventure Park, and Iron Mountain Tramway.”This is great,” Darrow said. “I never imagined it would get as developed as it has become.”Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext.

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