Apparently that was the motto of Steve Guy and his partners in crime at the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as other contributing icons of the community. You see, a handful of dedicated individuals from Ouray County brought to life an impressive True Grit Days celebration on Saturday in Ridgway’s Hartwell Park to not only honor the 100th birthday of John Wayne, but more importantly, show that a respective event, which included the presence of three movie celebrities, can be tastefully done in a matter of a couple months.
I have to admit, at first I was a little apprehensive about its success, but after meeting Steve, the True Grit Days Committee Chairperson, and getting a feel for what he’s about, and already knowing the determination of the chamber, I knew this event would be special; it was just going to take the rest of us be just as excited.
To me, that was easily done. Once The Ouray County Watch earned the bid to produce the official program – yes, the chamber, in conjunction with the True Grit Days Committee, asked local newspapers to present formal proposals on their ideas on a program’s production – and I started researching the project, I was easily convinced this event could be truly special, which it turned out to be.
The weekend started with a VIP dinner at the Beaumont in Ouray where, and I’m guessing, close to 100 were in attendance, including the celebs – Kim Darby, who played Mattie Ross in True Grit, which was filmed in Ridgway and its vicinity in 1968, Johnny Crawford and Angie Dickinson. All three were in a movie with Wayne, which made this worthwhile.
I have to say a little something on Angie. Even in her mid-70s, she’s still a starlet to many, and always will be. She spent so much time just talking with VIP-goers; she’s 100 percent a down-to-earth type celeb, if there is such a thing. And on Saturday, she was even better. She signed autographs well after her allotted time and actually had conversations with event attendees, making a special day for many.
And as for those in attendance on Saturday, that was one of the biggest question marks through the entire planning stage. No one really knew how many people to expect. After knowing the amount of advertising that went into the event – TV, radio, newspaper, and magazine – I guessed as many as 1,000 would come and be in the park at one time. There was that many or more.
I was in the park for the majority of the event, going back and forth making sure programs were stocked here and there, while also taking numerous pictures. I was stopped on more than one occasion by event-goers, who would ask questions, which I answered to the best of my ability, and I learned plenty of individuals came from miles away to take part in this. I listened to one gentleman tell Angie he lived 20 miles from the Canadian border and wouldn’t miss a chance to meet her and celebrate John Wayne at the same time. Then there’s the woman that drove overnight from Kentucky. I tell ya folks, this was an event that shouldn’t have been missed. There was great food, great musical entertainment the entire day, and, of course, the showing of True Grit in the park, which brought applause from the crowd when Darby’s character walked through the “Fort Smith” park, the very same park in which they were seated. It was something else. A great atmosphere for people to take part in a great event. I never once heard any derogatory remarks; it was 110 percent positive. One of the 15 times I talked to Steve (which I only did for about 30 seconds since he was buzzing around taking care of things), he asked me subtly, “Would you rate this as a success?” I gave him an “Oh, yes” at the time, but when I got to talking with some friends and fellow volunteers, my actual reply should’ve been, “If someone thinks it’s not, then they don’t know the time, effort and energy that was put into this event.”
Without many fine people, this event wouldn’t have been possible. “Thank you” goes to Steve Guy – and what a guy he is – Barb Morss, Barb Sublette, and Tammee Tuttle at the chamber, which also includes Douglas Bissonette, Darrin Grieves, Kris and Scott Schroeder, Roger Schaefer, Steve Sublette, Linda Lysaght, Belinda Hammer, as well as Keith and Susan Prather, Dale Tuttle and Fred McKnight.
And, you can’t forget the security personnel that accompanied Ouray County Undersheriff Matt Carrington, as well as Ridgway Marshal D.J. Scott, Sergeant Allen Paquin and Deputy Charles Beckner, and Ridgway Town Councilmember/Ridgway Volunteer firefighter Dave Drew and his traffic control skills, as well as the Ouray County EMS, which was on call in the park all day.
I’ll see you all next year at the Second-Annual True Grit Days, tentatively slated for the same weekend next year. It’s definitely a worthwhile event.