High Altitude Society column: ‘Pete’s Dream’ memorial sculpture proposed for Vail | VailDaily.com
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High Altitude Society column: ‘Pete’s Dream’ memorial sculpture proposed for Vail

Recently, the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail hosted a reception for friends of the gallery to learn more about the idea and dream of early Vail local Roger Tilkemeier to commission a life-sized sculpture monument to Vail founder Pete Seibert and the early Gore Valley ranchers. On this evening, gallery owner Bill Rey introduced Tilkemeier and asked him to share his dream of honoring Seibert.

“I brought this idea to Bill — we have only known each other for about 35 years — and he said, ‘Herb Mignery is the guy who has got to do this,’” Tilkemeier said. “So we went down to Loveland and had lunch with him and I explained what my thoughts were, and about four days later, he sent a sketch. And he nailed it; he absolutely nailed.”

‘Educating future generations’

Rey shared Tilkemeier’s vision of memorializing the early ranchers of the area.

“Before Vail ever happened, there were the Gore Valley ranching families who homesteaded the land and filed and secured water rights, which is what enabled Vail to happen.”Bill ReyClaggett/Rey Gallery owner

“Before Vail ever happened, there were the Gore Valley ranching families who homesteaded the land and filed and secured water rights, which is what enabled Vail to happen. Vail has prospered because of all of the private land,” Rey said. “The cowboy on horseback represents all the ranching families that are part of greater Eagle County who have raised their families here and worked the land,” Rey said.

Judi Elliott Kirby, along with Luke Gray, wrote “Book of Lena: A Time Before Vail,” which gives a colorful visual history of the early hard-working homesteaders. The photos depict life in the Gore Valley before the Vail ski rush began. As the group heard stories of yesteryear, they stood appreciating the clay model sculpture.

“This is a rough study, which looks a lot like Pete — and it will be Pete. … He is with a Gore Valley rancher, who was really a camp tender for the sheep outfits roaming the mountains around the area,” Rey said. “He would come into Vail periodically and run into Pete, who would show him his latest plans. There is no rancher that rides up in the high country without a dog, and we have all owned the best dog in the world. … This is one of those.”

Sculptor Mignery grew up ranching in Nebraska and resides in Loveland. He is a member Emeritus of the Cowboy Artists of America and a fellow with the National Sculpture Society.

“This is his clay working model,” Rey said. “Herb will do a small bronze version of this … the life and a quarter-sized sculpture will be an asset for the town of Vail. I think that, in the town of Vail, we need that physical place to offer a link between Pete Seibert and what was before Vail. … You are educating future generations to learn of the early ranching families and the risks that they took and their passion.”

‘Memorializing Pete’

Tilkemeier shared that Seibert (1924-2002) was the founder of Vail and, since childhood, had dreamt of building his own ski resort. He realized his dream with the opening of Vail in December 1962. It rose from a sheep pasture along Gore Creek to become one of the finest ski resorts in the world.

“My vision of memorializing Pete and the ranchers who paved the way for him is a monument of him showing the plans for his dream to a rancher on horseback, tying together Pete’s work with the importance of the work of the ranchers. With the invaluable help of Bill Rey and sculptor Herb Mignery, we have developed a clay model of the proposed monument so that the public can better understand the historical and educational significance of the work,” Tilkemeier said.

The town of Vail’s Art in Public Places board and the Vail Town Council have enthusiastically approved the proposal for this historic monument. For more information and funding opportunities, contact roger.tilkmeier@gmail.com.

Betty Ann Woodland is a longtime local who covers social events including fundraisers for nonprofits, local happenings and soirees of all kinds. She can be reached at bettyannw6@gmail.com.


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