Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta, Colorado will host its Traditional Holiday Celebration on Friday first weekend in December. Over 50 living history volunteers from Colorado and surrounding states will bring the fort to life with the sights, sounds, and smells of a working 19th Century trading post during the holiday season. Festivities will include candlelight tours, toy making, holiday decorating and children's games.
The celebration begins on Friday, 6:30 p.m. with guided candlelight tours of the fort. Living history interpreters will guide groups through various rooms where people of the era will be preparing to celebrate the holidays. Tours will be filled on a first come, first served basis. After the tours, everyone will join together at the plaza bonfire for caroling and Las Posadas. The evening will culminate in the fort's dining room with mincemeat pie, shortbread, hot cider and other authentic treats from the 1800s. The Fort will close at 9:00 p.m. To make reservations, phone (719) 383-5026.
Festivities on Saturday will begin at 9:30 a.m. and run all day. Scheduled activities include toy making, children's games in the plaza, frontier medicine, trading scenes, storytelling, holiday decorating and other living history activities. Specific holiday events will also be featured Saturday. Wagon rides, over to the river and through the woods, will be provided from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Period music demonstrations, featuring Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout, will be presented at 10:30 a.m. and 12, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Especially for children, there will be toy making workshops in the carpenters shop at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The afternoon will feature a taffy pull around 1 p.m., a piñata break at 2 p.m., and a yule log hunt at 2:30. The yule log will be christened in the fort plaza at 3:30.For a break from the fort activities, visitors may visit Indian and trapper camps just outside the fort. Events will culminate with a piñata break and a Yule log hunt. The park will close to the public at 4:00 p.m. and then reopen for another night of candlelight tours, Las Posadas and holiday treats beginning at 6:30 p.m.
A living history fee is charged for the candlelight tours or to attend the daytime Holiday Celebration. The cost is $3.00 for visitors 13 and older and $2.00 for ages 6 to 12. Visitors are asked to park at the main parking lot and pay their fee at the bookstore. The Western National Parks Association bookstore and traderoom will be open through all of these events for your holiday shopping. Featured right now is a new book by Emil Gimeno of Denver, the contractor in charge of the forts reconstruction. Entitled The Adobe Castle of the Santa Fe Trail: The History and Reconstruction of Bents Old Fort the book contains many insights into the project and adobe construction in general. Besides books and videos, the traderoom has available for purchase hundreds of reproduction items similar to those that were once traded at the fort. Visitors are asked to dress warmly and bring a flashlight for the evening programs. Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is located on Colorado Highway 194, 8 miles east of La Junta or 15 miles west of Las Animas. For more information on the Holiday Celebration, including a schedule of event activities, visit the park's website at http://www.nps.gov/beol/index.htm and click on "Special Events" or call the park at (719) 383-5010.