Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson
Special to Colorado Community Media
The Elbert County Historical Society and Museum held its 22nd annual Fourth Pioneer celebration on July 4. The event, the museum’s largest fundraiser of the year, was held on the museum grounds in Kiowa and drew attendees from across the county.
The celebration featured several events, including a watermelon eating contest, a silent auction, and the highly anticipated cake baking contest. After the cake baking contest, each cake was auctioned off to the highest bidder. All proceeds from the auction go to the museum. This year, a cake was auctioned off for $620, the highest in the event’s history.
In addition, the event featured several family-oriented activities, including children’s games, face painting, cornhole, and live music from local Colorado bands. Local fiber artists shared how to make wool on spinning wheels. The traditional 4th of July food was cooked by local volunteers and sold to support the museum.
“It was a great day. We had a fantastic turnout,” said Joe Martell, president of the Elbert County Historical Society. “It was the best we’ve ever had in terms of attendance, climate and general enthusiasm for the museum.”
The Fourth Pioneer celebration holds great significance for many long-time Kiowa residents. The Elbert County Museum building was once the original Kiowa High School. Several of Kiowa’s older residents went to school in the building and their goal is to work to help preserve it and keep the history of space and Elbert County alive for future generations to experience.
“I graduated in 1959. This is where I went to high school,” said Kiowa local Nita McKnight. “This event is really great for the community because it is a source of learning about Kiowa history. The historical society and the museum help provide our children with information about where they live.”
Like most local museums in the high plains, the Elbert County Historical Society and Museum is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. The museum is currently open Thursday through Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm Admission is free, though donations are welcome and encouraged.
This year’s main exhibit is called “Music on the Plains”. Focuses on early music from the area, including musicians and instruments associated with Elbert County. The exhibit features an abundance of photos and stories.
In a phone interview with Martell, he said, “We haven’t figured out how much money the event raised yet, but I think with a lot of confidence, this was our best year yet.”