Rich Fike’s (seated) Museum of the Mountain West reflects 100 years of history, from 1840 to 1940. Mirror file photo.

By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE— (March 5) Mark your calendars—and break out the boots! Museum of the Mountain West (68169 East Miami) has announced the Fourth Annual Tribute to Western Movies Days, to be held June 8, 2013. One of Montrose’s signature events, this year’s Tribute to Western Movies will feature the iconic 1960’s-era classic, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.


According to Museum Founder and Board Chair Rich Fike, this year’s guest speaker will be Bill Betenson, the great, great grandson of Lula Parker Betenson, Butch Cassidy’s sister and author of the 2012 book “Butch Cassidy My Uncle.”


“We are seeking vendors at this time, and memorabilia pertaining to the movie and or the outlaws,” Fike said.

Past Tributes to Western Movies Days have featured the Cast of “The Virginian” television show, the movie “Sons of Katie Elder,” and the Marlow family on whom the story is based, and even a professional John Wayne impersonator from Branson, Missouri. This year, Fike, an expert on the subject, expects the emphasis on Butch and Sundance to be a highly popular draw.


“The movie was filmed in Colorado, with our own cliffs, and we have Butch Cassidy’s saddle and chaps in the Museum,” Fike said. “Bill Betenson was his great, great nephew—his own mother Lula Parker Betenson was 17 years younger than her brother Butch, and ended up in the legislature.” Lula Betenson herself claimed that her outlaw older brother did not die in South America as many believed, but returned to the U.S. and lived until 1937, when he died of cancer in Spokane, Washington. There are sources who also believe that the Sundance Kid survived the shootout in Bolivia as well, and was eventually buried in Duchesne, Utah.


“This is going to be a great event,” Fike said. “Everyone knows the story of Butch and Sundance! We will also have vendors, music, and a panel discussion. We’re very excited about this year’s event.”


To learn more, call Museum of the Mountain West at 970-240-3400.


There should be plenty of excitement to go around—according to the Colorado Tourism web site, tourism is a $7.3 billion industry, of which heritage tourism comprises a sizable share. And heritage tourists—those interested in museums, cultural institutions, scenic byways and other reminders of Colorado’s colorful past—are among the most desirable.


“By spending money in localities off the beaten track, heritage travelers help spread economic benefits to rural areas,” notes the state web site, which lists six vital components of heritage tourism—products and experiences, marketing and communications, infrastructure, government relations, funding, and finally,  the organizations charged with managing the “system,” from the Colorado Tourism Office at the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) on down to local visitors’ centers and chambers of commerce.


In Ridgway, where plans have been announced to host a first-ever Ridgway Heritage Days and Ranch Rodeo June 13-16, many see the area’s past as key to its future. Plans so far include a procession to the fairgrounds complete with blacksmiths, cowboys and cowboy poets, and Native Americans. Also featured will be a ranch rodeo and barn dance on Saturday, as well as a day in the town park on Sunday featuring a pancake breakfast and cowboy church, the local farmers market, blacksmith demonstrations, a cowboy gathering, an entertainment tent, and plenty of games for the kids.


The community has already begun to show its generosity in the form of donations, notes Ridgway Heritage Days and Ranch Rodeo committee member and True Grit Café owner Tammee Tuttle. “It is so nice to reach back and remember what began Ridgway, our ranching and railroad roots,” Tuttle said, adding that one does not have to be a cowboy to enjoy heritage events.  “There’s nothing wrong with being different, and still appreciating where we came from—this is our history. Don’t be afraid, embrace it!”


To learn more about the Ridgway Heritage Days and Ranch Rodeo, call event organizer and Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce Administrator Gale Ingram at 970-626-3580.