Titanic dinner buoys historical bash

Preparations are under way for the Durango Heritage Celebration, which begins Thursday. Danica Tarkington, right, banquet director, and Emily Spencer, sales manager, both with the Strater Hotel, clean up items in the Strater’s warehouse that they will use for the hotel’s Titanic Dinner on Friday night. The event sold out in just 10 days in May. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Preparations are under way for the Durango Heritage Celebration, which begins Thursday. Danica Tarkington, right, banquet director, and Emily Spencer, sales manager, both with the Strater Hotel, clean up items in the Strater’s warehouse that they will use for the hotel’s Titanic Dinner on Friday night. The event sold out in just 10 days in May.

Over the last four years, the Durango Heritage Celebration has allowed residents and visitors to get a taste of both the town and the formative three decades after its founding. The fifth year will kick off Thursday.

“It’s the year we’ve gone international,” Durango Heritage Celebration Chairwoman Suzanne Parker said. “We have people coming from Vancouver and New Brunswick, Canada.”

Attendees are also expected from 11 states, including from states as far away as Virginia and North Carolina.

Organizers are planning to add new content to its tried-and-true formula.

“We have discovered a formula that people really seem to like,” Parker said. “But we definitely change the content and try new things, too. This year we’ve added the Men’s Historical Costume Contest.”

The contest, which will feature categories in Victorian, military and Old West outfits, will be held in the Diamond Belle Saloon on Saturday afternoon.

“People have gone to so much effort on their outfits, they love to display them,” Parker said. She herself will wear five different outfits during the weekend, including a Victorian ball gown and an Edwardian evening gown for the Titanic dinner, which is sold out.

“We were planning to put the tickets for the Titanic dinner on sale July 1,” said Emily Spencer, the sales and catering manager for the Strater Hotel. “Because of the demand, we started selling on May 1, and we sold out in 10 days. In May, for an event in October. In Durango, where no one ever plans ahead.”

Spencer has fun planning the banquet every year. The theme of the last dinner on the Titanic is a repeat from last year because it proved so popular, and because 2012 is the centennial of the famous tragedy. She has used as a reference the book Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Legendary Liner.

“I go through the recipes deciding what we can still get,” Spencer said. “We don’t eat oysters à la russe or consommé Olga anymore. But we can do roast beef with bordelaise sauce and chateau potatoes.”

For the second year in a row, the Animas Museum is getting into the act by sponsoring an afternoon of workshops on Victorian hatmaking, both structurally and ornamentation.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Museum Director Carolyn Bowra said. “I’m not a hat person, but these ladies make gorgeous hats. And they’re bringing some to sell, too.”

Fort Lewis College professor and historian Duane Smith will have a busy weekend, giving a history tour on the trolley as newspaper publisher David Day; portraying John Lucian Russell at the Greenmount Cemetery Tour: Early Movers and Shakers; and giving a lecture called Who was Sheriff Thompson?

“There are more questions than answers,” Smith said about the early 20th century lawman who was killed in a shooting on Main Avenue by City Marshal Stancell after apparently trying to shut down gambling halls in Durango. “The big question is, was he shot before in the back? Did he shoot first? I can pose possible scenarios, but we only know he didn’t survive.”

Smith encourages everyone to come out and learn some history in a fun way.

“It’s a good time to celebrate where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going,” he said. “It’s a chance to celebrate who we are.”

abutler@durangoherald.com

Bonnie Brennan shows off a pair of antique ladies boots as she and Suzanne Parker create a Halloween-themed showcase display at Durango Public Library to promote the upcoming Durango Heritage Celebration, which will begin Thursday. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Bonnie Brennan shows off a pair of antique ladies boots as she and Suzanne Parker create a Halloween-themed showcase display at Durango Public Library to promote the upcoming Durango Heritage Celebration, which will begin Thursday.

Emily Spencer, right, sales manager, jokingly puts a ship captain’s hat on Danica Tarkington, banquet director, while the two explore all things nautical in the Strater Hotel’s warehouse. The women are selecting items to set the scene for the hotel’s sold-out Titanic Dinner on Friday night. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Emily Spencer, right, sales manager, jokingly puts a ship captain’s hat on Danica Tarkington, banquet director, while the two explore all things nautical in the Strater Hotel’s warehouse. The women are selecting items to set the scene for the hotel’s sold-out Titanic Dinner on Friday night.

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