Western Memories: Parachute’s Grand Valley Days an annual tradition for Satterfields
Citizen Telegram Contributor
PARACHUTE – When the 108th annual Grand Valley Days celebration kicks off on Friday in Parachute, Mary Lindauer Satterfield and her cousin-in-law, Juanita Satterfield, will be on hand to help, just as they have been for several decades.
The two women have been involved in some aspect of Grand Valley Days for as long as they can remember, from the parade to painting to the street sports that entertain the children in attendance. Mary was a barrel racer in the rodeo during her teen years.
“Now we mostly work on the rodeo and advertising,” she said.
Every year, a small group of local residents comes together to organize the event, which includes a parade and rodeo, as well as other activities.
“We don’t have a lot of members,” Mary said. “People come and go. We had a big meeting the other night. I think we had 12 [people] there. There’s been times when we’ve had a lot of members. We do get a lot of volunteers that show up at Grand Valley Days, and we’re thankful for them.”
Finding enough people to help is an ongoing challenge.
“We come from a town that was only 300 people back in the old days,” Mary said.
“And it dropped down from then,” Juanita added.
During World War II, residents dubbed the event the “widows and widowers round-up,” because there were so few people around.
“We had a talent show up until the mid-80s that was a hit with everyone, but you’ve got to have someone manage it,” Mary said. “Where the gazebo sits now at [Cottonwood Park] there used to be an old bandstand with legs where they would hand out the ribbons and awards.”
The celebration used to be held later in the year, Juanita explained, allowing local fruit farmers to bring their crops in for sale.
“It was sort of a harvest festival,” she said.
The scheduling was changed after it snowed on the event one year.
Both women have witnessed many changes to their community over the years.
“When [I-70] went through, it was a real hardship on the town,” Mary said. “People just shot right through.”
Mary worked for Garfield School District 16 for 30 years, and remembers enrolling 20-30 new students every day during the oil shale boom.
Juanita, a self-described “number cruncher,” was the deputy town clerk for 10 years, and the town administrator for another 10.
“Dad came back and we went up Parachute Creek (where the family’s ranch used to be). He remembered 38 families who lived on Parachute Creek. They’re all gone now,” Juanita said.
Despite all the changes — good and bad — the annual event is something area residents look forward to.
“A lot of people come back, like for their family reunions and such,” said Juanita. “It’s the only celebration that we have in Parachute anymore. It’s pretty much been continuous. Even when they didn’t have the rodeo, they would have the street sports and dances and socials.”
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