By Edi Sheldon
WALSENBURG- When I returned to Walsenburg in 1995, the Chamber had again changed the name of the summer event to the Spanish Peaks Fiesta and reduced it to a one-day celebration. The popularity of rodeo had declined and the county had decided a few years before to change the rodeo arena and livestock stalls into baseball fields and to build a community center where the old grandstands used to be. Thus the Spanish Peaks Fiesta had become a vendors’ fair with bands playing in front of a portable grandstand in Heritage Park. There was a beer garden and contests for children & adults and the event was preceded by the traditional parade but the Fiesta was not as popular with local citizens.
The Chamber of Commerce again decided the event needed revitalization and various members started a research project into the Black Diamond Jubilees of former fame. The first revived Black Diamond Jubilee took place centered in downtown Walsenburg. There were some 130 vendors from all over who came and set up their tents and booths along west 5th and 6th streets. Local merchants held sidewalk sales. Tourists stopped and parked and got out to see what they could see. The El Fandango dancers and other performers put on shows in the city parking lot. Contests for ice cream eating, beard growing, sack racing, and apple bobbing took place on the lawn of the Court House. A small carnival occupied Heritage Park and there was lots of traffic and lots of fun. In the evening a band performed in the city parking lot and at least 100-200 people enjoyed the street dance
As the years have passed, the event has both dwindled and swelled again. The many volunteers who work so hard to produce this summer festival for the local citizenry often experience burnout. The dwindling local economy presents an ever greater challenge to local citizens and merchants. I am not sure I have the answers, but I also don’t advise losing hope. I think our community has a better opportunity than ever before to prosper and enjoy some economic growth. However, just like the festivals over the years, everyone needs to participate and contribute their part to making it work. This is the meaning of community. Let’s continue to celebrate our community and what it has to offer.