What’s In a Name: Leadville Fireworks
If you haven’t heard the word by now, the Leadville Lions Club July 4th fireworks display has been cancelled for this year (2020). It’s a fact that Leadville Today was able to confirm by three independent sources, although no one wants to be the messenger of more sad news concerning another event being cancelled. Still, folks need to make plans and with the flip of the calendar to July, it’s a good day to pass along the information.
While some of the concerns behind canceling the fireworks came from Lake County Public Health Director Colleen Nielson, specifically that people would congregate while watching the pyrotechnic display, the decision involved a bit more than that.
According to Leadville Lion Carol Glenn, “the biggest one (concern) was that the 30 or so people on top of the hill would need to be very close together to set them off. Some of our members who generally are a part of the ‘shooting off’ are considered high risk at this point and, quite honestly, we had to put their health above the community event. It was a decision which was made with a lot of disappointment but the club felt that they had no choice.”
Leadville LOVES it’s Lions Club and all they do for many local events and causes. In fact, this is a good reminder to join their efforts, and become a Lion in Leadville Today! So to help offset some of that disappointment, LT brings you a couple of patriotic stories that have a Leadville Connection. The first is about the man that the – now-cancelled – fireworks display is named after. In a town like Leadville, where history is important, find out what Leadville Lion has earned such an honor.
The second story celebrates the red, white, and blue that symbolizes America’s freedoms and the official colors of birthday celebrations across the country this holiday weekend. So how does that have a Leadville Connection? Well, the clue lies well below your feet, and rhymes with the word rhodochrosite!
Sky Rockets in Flight
The formal name of the Fourth of July fireworks show presented every year by the Leadville Lions Club is the Tony Hren Memorial Fireworks Display. And in a town like Leadville these kinds of notorieties are relevant and certainly worth learning about. After all, if it weren’t for guys like Tony, many of Leadville’s small-town traditions might go to the wayside.
So who was Tony Hren? For those who knew him or worked with him, the mere mention of his name brings a genuine smile to their face. He was that type of person, kind, and unassuming, mixed with a strong work ethic and giving nature.
Tony Hren was the owner of the Sayer and McKee Drug Store on Harrison for decades during the mid-late 20th century when life rolled a bit slower on the avenue. It was before all the big-box stores that folks now shop at over the hill. It was before digital cameras, when you had to have a place to get your film developed. And it was the place where you really could experience that neighborhood feel when getting your prescription filled. Hren ran a solid business, a tight ship and gave back to his community in countless ways, one of which was as a member of the Leadville Lions Club.
Hren passed away in 1999 at the age of 67, too early some say. But fortunately, as he was putting his affairs in order towards the end of a long battle with illness, Hren made sure that once a year the Leadville sky would be lit up, adding a kaleidoscope of colors to the brilliant, twinkling stars. It is Hren’s legacy – in part – that provides the financial support of the annual Leadville Lions Club 4th of July Fireworks Display, now appropriately named in his honor.
Today, the building that once was home to Hren’s former drug store has been restored after the roof collapsed under heavy snow during the winter of 2014. It is now known as the historic Sayer & McKee Building/KW Plaza, which is home to the Silver Llama and the Treeline Kitchen, which by the way, has a great rooftop patio with incredible views of Colorado’s two highest peaks! So, until next year when Leadvillites can once again gather to enjoy every “ooh” and “aah”, compliments of Lion Tony, have a great Independence Day, and celebrate responsibly!
Colorado’s Red, White, and Blue
Happy Birthday, America! Yes, this weekend kicks off the country’s 244th birthday parties. It’s an outright celebration of everything red, white and blue. And fellow Americans, when it comes to states, Colorado simply couldn’t be more patriotic. Its nickname is the Centennial State, because in the year of America’s 100th Birthday – 1876 – Colorado received its statehood. And of course, there’s the fact that “America The Beautiful” was written by Katherine Bates when she saw Pikes Peak and was inspired to write the verse, “Purple’s mountain’s majesty, above the fruited plain.”
But did you know that Colorado is the only state whose official geological symbols are red, white and blue?! Yes, when it comes to Colorado’s State Mineral (red- rhodochrosite), State Rock (white – Yule marble) and State Gem (blue- aquamarine) this color trio is an intended tribute to America. And – of course – this patriotic gesture has a Leadville connection!
The color red is represented by Colorado’s Official State Mineral: Rhodochrosite. And it’s here that the local connection weaves into the red, white and blue story. The official bill to designate a state mineral was sponsored in 2002 by State Senator Ken Chlouber and Representative Carl Miller, both from Leadville.
The initial suggestion was presented by a high school Earth Science class, located near Bailey, who became aware that Colorado did not have a state mineral. After some debate, the students decided that rhodochrosite, because of its red color (similar to Colorado, which means “reddish” in Spanish) should be the state mineral. They wrote a letter to Rep. Miller suggesting the designation. And for a couple of country-loving Americans like Miller and Chlouber, working jointly to introduce this legislation was easy! Within three months rhodochrosite was designated the Colorado State Mineral and signed into law by Governor Bill Owens on April 17, 2002. (LT Fun Fact: Did you know that present-day Lake County Commissioner Kayla Marcella is the granddaughter of Rep. Carl Miller? The legacy continues!)
White: Yule Marble
The white color in the geologically patriotic combination is represented by Yule Marble, Colorado’s State Rock. Again, it was a group of young people – Girl Scout Troop 357 – who prompted State Representative Betty Boyd to introduce the bill. As the state is known for the majestic Rocky Mountains, the scout group argued, it seemed odd that the state did not yet have an official state rock. Being surrounded by Yule Marble in the floors and trim of the State Capitol building, it wasn’t too much of a legislative reach to accept the designation.
In addition, the Girl Scouts urged, designating the Yule Marble would complete the official geological symbols to be red, white and blue. Smart young women! Gov. Owens had the honor of completing the star-spangled trifecta when he signed the bill into law in March 2004.
Yule Marble has been used in many famous buildings and sculptures, including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Rounding out the American-themed symbols is the color blue, represented by Aquamarine designated as the state gemstone of Colorado back in 1971.
You’ll need to head a bit south of Lake County, towards the mountain peaks of Mount Antero and Mount White in Chaffee County, to capture the finest quality of these “blue” aquamarines. According to the Colorado Geological Survey website, they are also among the highest in elevation, located at 13,000 to 14,200 feet. The crystals in these cavities range in color from light blue to pale blue and deep aquamarine green, and in size from very small to 6 cm in length.
There you have it! As you celebrate America’s birthday this week, sing out a little song of “Three Cheers for the Red (Rhodochrosite), White (Yule Marble), and Blue (Aquamarine)!” That’s how we’ll be celebrating it in Leadville Today.
Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today. Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.