Q&A: The Fort’s Holly Arnold Kinney on Tesoro’s Annual 1830s Rendezvous

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All ages are welcome at the 1830s Rendezvous weekend. Photo by B Public Relations

Think you would have had the skills, stomach and gumption to survive in the old days of the Wild West? Find out at the Tesoro Cultural Center’s 16th annual 1830s Rendezvous event this weekend.

Held Sept. 16-17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Fort restaurant in Morrison, the center is set to celebrate the blending of American mountain men and the Hispanic communities of the fur trading era and Bent’s Old Fort, the famous fur-trading fort in Colorado from 1833 to 1849.

Historical interpreters will demonstrate period goods including trade silver, moccasins, beaver skin hats and buckskin period dress and will walk guests through day-to-day skills from the 1830s, such as tomahawk throwing, hide scraping and flint and steel fire starting. Demonstrations of black powder shooting, blacksmithing and other skills and crafts that were necessary to survive during the American fur trade era and live music from Rex Rideout, Spurs of the Moment Bluegrass and the Southwest Musicians are also on the family-friendly agenda.

We talked with Holly Arnold Kinney, Tesoro’s executive director and proprietress of The Fort, about this year’s event.

There are a lot of fun activities and events on the schedule. What are you most excited for?
“There are so many exciting things! We have a cooking demonstration with a cast-iron pot over the campfire and top historical interpreters coming from as far away as Texas to set up their interpretive encampments, where the public can walk in and feel like they’re right back in the 1830s and ’40s. It’s going to be a lot of fun for families, too. We developed a scavenger hunt for kids where they work to get questions answered about various aspects of history by the experts. For example, they’ll hear why the beaver trade was so important from Uncle Dick Wooten, a famous scout from Bent Fort who’s played by one of our reenactors.

We’re also giving guided tours of The Fort, where everyone will learn about how it’s a replica of Bent’s Old Fort, and we’re featuring demonstrations by artists Jimmy Truijillo and Juan Lopez, whose works are in the Smithsonian and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in New Mexico. There’s so much going on; it’ll be fun for everyone.”

Sounds like a great lineup.
“The artists we’re featuring are award-winning and are coming from New Mexico. We’ve also got traders coming who make historic clothing that have been featured in museums. If you’ve always wanted to buy a buckskin jacket, they’ll be here selling those and more. We’re doing a whole thing on pioneer women, too, who will show you how they scrape the elk hides and tan the leather and how a woman in the 1830s would live in general.”

How do you make each year different?
“Every year we have something new, and a lot of our schedule depends on which interpreters can come. This year, for instance, we have Henry Crawford, who won a national award for interpreting. He does a whole talk on the buffalo soldiers, so we’ll be learning more about that this time. John Carson, who’s Kit Carson’s great-great grandson and plays Kit Carson at the National Park Service Bent’s New Fort, is also coming, and he’s never been able to come until this year … Next year we are going to have a juried art show for Spanish Colonial art again—we’ve done it in previous years.”

You say Tesoro’s goal is to “make the treasures of the past available to everyone.” Do you have favorite facts you’ve learned after hosting this event for 16 years?
“Oh, yeah. In fact, I just learned something new: This year, we’re honoring James Hanson and his newly published book, “The Provisions of the Fur Trade.” He sent me an advanced copy, which talks about how, when Bent Fort was open, they always had a cook at each trading fort. The Indians were the primary people who traded at the forts because it was before the Indian wars and the forts were in Indian country. And when Indians traded, they would always go to the forts that had the best cooks. Bent Fort had an African-American cook named Charlotte Green and she was known all over the West for her pies. The Indians would rather trade where they could get some of Charlotte’s yummy pies instead of trading at, say, Fort Laramie, where the cook wasn’t as popular.”

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