John Allen plays guitar and sings while Wayne Davis provides accompaniment on fiddle. The two men, who formed the John Wayne Band nearly 20 years ago, were invited to play Moffat County’s 100th birthday party Sunday at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. More than 250 people attended the event, which featured a photo exhibit, live music and birthday cake.

Photo by Ben McCanna

John Allen plays guitar and sings while Wayne Davis provides accompaniment on fiddle. The two men, who formed the John Wayne Band nearly 20 years ago, were invited to play Moffat County’s 100th birthday party Sunday at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. More than 250 people attended the event, which featured a photo exhibit, live music and birthday cake.

Museum hosts Moffat centennial celebration

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Joel Longwell, 5, admires “Moffat County—The First 25 Years,” a photo exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. More than 250 people were at the museum Sunday to celebrate Moffat County’s 100th birthday party. The event featured a photo exhibit, live music and birthday cake.

Museum employee Rachel Van Tassel said the menu for a 100th birthday party is simple.

“Tons of cake,” she said. “Tons of punch.

Van Tassel stood behind a refreshment bar serving cake during a centennial celebration for Moffat County, which was founded Feb. 27, 1911.

More than 250 people attended the Sunday event.

While the snacks may have been simple, museum director Dan Davidson said commemorating the milestone with exhibits was a bit more challenging.

“It took six months of planning,” he said.

Attractions included the John Wayne Band—a duo comprised of a guitarist and fiddle player, items from David Moffat’s Marcia Car, and “Moffat County – a photographic look at the First 25 Years.”

Craig resident Beth Gilchrist said she enjoyed the photographs.

“I love it,” she said. “My great grandparents are in it.”

Gilchrist’s family — the Emersons — first arrived in Northwest Colorado in 1886, and have stayed ever since. A photographs of the Emersons’ ranch in Lay was on display.

“It’s a great place to raise kids, and obviously the same was true of my family,” she said of Moffat County. “You have to have roots somewhere, and it’s nice to have roots here.”

Craig resident David Longwell moved to the area in 1976. He brought his 12 children to the museum to see the photo exhibit.

One of Longwell’s sons, 11-year-old James, said the centennial celebration wasn’t just for old people.

“I really like it,” he said.

Lou Wyman, who owns the Wyman Museum in Craig, was on hand for the birthday party. He said he appreciates the Museum of Northwest Colorado and its director.

“He’s doing exactly what a museum director should do,” Wyman said of Davidson. “That isn’t true everywhere. Some of them are trying to raise money or I don’t know what.

“All he does is research, write and e-mail the heirs of people who had homesteaded here.”

Davidson, who was born in Craig, said he’s reaching a milestone of his own.

“I’ll be 55 this year,” he said. “Scary, huh?”

For 21 of those years, Davidson has been an employee of the museum.

Davidson said Moffat County hasn’t changed much over the years, but many of its inhabitants have come and gone.

“Some people become cornerstones of their communities, whether it’s families or individuals, because of their personalities or their jobs,” he said. “When those people pass, it creates a big hole.

“That’s what I’ve noticed in this job. There were a lot of people you could go and ask questions of, and now they’re gone.

“By the time you get to be 55, you realize how quickly that turnover actually happens.”

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