News Column

El Pueblo fosters family fun

July 7, 2014

By Nick Jurney, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

July 07--Walking through the gates behind the El Pueblo History Museum Saturday, visitors young and old were greeted in the placita by volunteers and museum employees to simulate life in the mid-19th century as part of the museum's Frontier Family Fun Day.

"Press on it like you're on a game show pressing the button," said Mary Blickhahn, museum volunteer, as she guided Ivy Tubay, 3, and Roman Tubay, 6, how to roll their own tortillas at the first stop of the Family Fun Day tour.

"We are trying to show them how people would have lived in the late 1840s, early 1850s," Blickhahn said. "They would cook using the technology that made it to the West, probably with the Spaniards."

Blickhahn said she constantly gets questions about what they do in the placita, and the event is a good way to invite interested kids and adults alike to learn about the history of the area.

"It's a fun thing to do, and the volunteers are extremely dedicated and educated," Blickhahn said. "People are always asking what we do and the trading post isn't always open, so this was a way we could make it available to the public."

After chowing down on a hand-rolled tortilla, visitors have the opportunity to learn how to make adobe bricks with the museum's education coordinator Jeremy Morton.

"We make a mud pit over here," Morton said as he pointed to an area behind one of the traditional stoves used for baking bread and other meals. "We mix the mud with grass clippings to simulate straw and put them in ice trays to make little adobe bricks."

Morton said they usually anticipate around 12 families to visit the placita each Saturday for the event, which takes place the first Saturday of the month now through October from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Following the adobe lesson, visitors make their way to the trading post, where history buff and volunteer Ron Stegar accepts wooden coins for a piece of candy.

Stegar said the museum will get between 3,500-4,000 visitors throughout the year, and he enjoys being able to fill them in on the history of Pueblo and the trading habits of those that were here before technology.

"I like to try and teach kids to appreciate our history; Pueblo was here before Colorado Springs or Denver, and this post was really a cultural crossroads from 18421854," Stegar said. "There were several groups of people that would bring things to trade with Native Americans. One of the biggest items to trade was buffalo robes."

Stegar said women did most of all of the work on crafting things like buffalo robes, beads and different items that

were often exchanged for things like Mexican chocolate, tobacco, sugar and steel.

"These were things the Native Americans had never been exposed to," Stegar said. "They were things that made life easier, because they never had them before."

"This (area) is a beginning of a lot of things," Stegar continued. "I like to tell kids about this area. It's a special area, this is your history, where Western civilization started in many ways."

The El Pueblo site itself was once the domain of Anglo, French and African-American trappers and traders; Mexican settlers and their families; and Plains, Iroquois, Delaware and Cherokee Indians, and Stegar points out to his visitors that back in those times, people didn't have the luxuries that exist today.

"I try to make kids understand that they didn't have the things we have -- Xbox, PlayStations and cellphones," Stegar said. "They got things that they needed through trade that changed their lives entirely."

After learning about trade history from Stegar, visitors moved through the structure to the game room, where Carol Rivera taught kids how to play traditional handmade games like pick-up sticks, the Ute Stick game, checkers (then known as draughts), Jacob's ladders and much more.

"It's a fun way to learn history while playing games," Rivera said. "All of the toys back then were handmade -- it was a self-sufficient community."

Visitors like Ivy and Roman, who were accompanied by their grandmother, Nancy Tanner, perfected their skills at the Ute stick game for several minutes before stopping by a paper doll station with volunteer Judy Brown.

"We saw the ad in the paper and thought this sounded like a fun thing for the kids to do," Tanner said. "I learned how to make tortillas," Roman said soon after. "And, I learned how to spin a top."

For more information about the El Pueblo museum, visit historycolorado. org/museums/ el-pueblo-history-museum.


(c)2014 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)

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