Snowdown from the start

Courtesy photo

Terry Fiedler presiding at the 1999 Snowdown Follies. Fiedler was a driving force between the origin and continued popularity of Snowdown.

The fact that Snowdown still exists and is so hugely successful all these years later is a testament to Terry’s unfailing love of the event and of our town.

This past September, Terry Fiedler inauspiciously boarded a plane and left Durango. Forever. Accompanied by his good friend Bob Larson and, purposely remaining in the background, his nurse Lori Green. He flew to Philadelphia, to a home for people with Alzheimer’s, where he will get extra loving care provided by his sister Judy Snyder, daughter Amy Fiedler, her children and other family members.

There were no goodbyes, no hugs, no tears, no “see ya laters” for this man who has meant so much to Durango. I know. I loved him and was married to him, for 12 years. He was always full of life and full of laughter; always had a joke written down in his DayTimer so he could remember to tell it to someone later and get a big laugh.

I was there when Snowdown was born in 1978. In our living room, in our funky old house on East Third Avenue. A 12 pack of Budweiser, a football game on the TV, and John Murrah proposing that Terry be the coordinator of a new winter event. The Durango Herald would sponsor it.

Thanks to Morley Ballantine and the Herald, Snowdown was born in 1979, funded by a mere $1,000. Terry was the leader, the organizer and the heartbeat of the concept. I was the “worker bee.”

We created events, we designed posters, we sold T-shirts, we collected prizes, we beat the streets to spread the word. From November 1978 to January 1979, we did it all. And we did it for the town, we did it for Durango. We wanted, needed, something to cure the “winter blahs” at the end of January and get people out to shake up the economy. When it was all over, the Herald was repaid for its modest investment, then graciously took the brunt of a lot of Snowdown humor over the years.

Terry did it all with the help of Tom Snodgrass, Rick Armstrong, Debbie Burns Howard, me and hundreds more volunteers. The fact that Snowdown still exists and is so hugely successful all these years later is a testament to Terry’s unfailing love of the event and of our town. He could be cranky, he could be forceful, he had a temper, but he was the driving force and was always doing it for the betterment of the event and the community.

For those of us close to him, it will be heartbreaking this winter not to see him walking the streets and hanging out in the Henry Strater Theatre watching Follies rehearsals. Terry’s sense of humor and love of musical theater help create the Follies, now credited as the only show in Durango with a guaranteed sell out of 2,000 seats and thousands of ticket orders turned away.

The theme of this year’s Snowdown Winter Celebration is “Safari so Good,” and from Jan. 29 through Feb. 2, the town will still party. New friends and old will laugh together, participate and revel in the craziness that is Snowdown. The waiter/waitress race, winter golf, chili cook-off, kids’ games, oyster gulping and a bazillion other events topped by the most amazing Snowdown Light Parade. But it won’t be the same without “Fieds.”

Those of us who know and love him will mourn, each in our own way. He is no longer in Durango but will always be with us. He spent decades bringing those around him back to the Snowdown mission, back to the established traditions, and most of all, bringing us together for the cause. We must keep the party going, keep the laughter coming and do it all for Durango. That is what Terry would want. No accolades, no huge thank you’s, just get everyone out and have a good time at the end of January. Shake up the town when we are tired of cold, short days.

Terry is all about enjoying life and sharing laughs. Anytime, anywhere. Let’s do it for him.

Linda Mannix is a local rancher with Santa Rita Ranch – www.santaritalonghorns.com – and coordinator of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Reach her at lindamannix@durango.net.

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