Back in time

Weekend festival celebrates Browns Park history

A strong sense of history is never far from the Browns Parks area, but people can be sure to tap into the past at this Saturday's John Jarvie Winter Fest.

The festival offers old-fashioned activities such as wagon rides and weaving and draws crowds of as many as 500 from the tri-state area, said Karen Bloom, public affairs officer for Vernal's Bureau of Land Management field office.

"I think it's a laid-back day that puts you in the holiday spirit," she said. "People like it because they can feel like they're going back in time."

John Jarvie's Ranch along the Green River in the far northeastern corner of Utah was a gathering place for people from the bordering states of Colorado and Wyoming. The turn-of-the-century hub contained a post office, saloon, store and ferry transportation across the river. It was a popular hangout among trappers, residents and, often, notorious characters on the run from law, Bloom said.

Thieves reportedly murdered Jarvie in 1909; the ranch is now run by the BLM and is open to the public for educational use.

Nearing a decade of bi-annual festivals, the event seems to be swelling in popularity, Maybell resident Dottie Petrini said.

"They have lots of activities for the children," she said. "It's a big turnout. People come from all over."

Petrini, who is a member of the Browns Park Homemaker's Club, was busy this week baking goods for the event. Members sell homemade treats at the festival to raise funds for the historic Lodore Hall off Colorado Highway 318.

Saturday's event will feature bluegrass music, cowboy poetry and Christmas carols. Homemade crafts are available for sale, and Santa Claus is expected to make an appearance. Schoolchildren generally decorate for the event, covering the trees with ornaments, Petrini said.

She has attended the festivals for the past five years and considers it a cornerstone of socialization for rural residents, she said.

"You see lots of people you don't get to see from year to year," Petrini said. "We see many of our old friends and the old-timers who like to come down."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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