Vail locals working to make ‘Pete’s Dream’ monument a reality | VailDaily.com

Vail locals working to make ‘Pete’s Dream’ monument a reality

VAIL — Roger and Jeanne Tilkemeier were strolling through Vail Village, something they've been doing since they landed here in 1963. They noticed that with all of the monuments to Vail's pioneers, there was nothing honoring Pete Seibert, Vail's founder, or the ranchers and homesteaders who were here before Vail.

This, Roger said, would never do.

He and Jeanne wandered over to Bill Rey's Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail and explained his idea to Rey, who liked it. In fact, Rey already had some sketches.

Sketch plan

Years ago, when Pete Seibert, Sr., was still alive and the original idea for Seibert Circle was being kicked around, Pete, Warren Miller and Christy Hill were working with Rey on design ideas.

They knew a guy who knew a guy, and one of the guys Rey knew was renowned sculptor Herb Mignery, whose work is found all over the country.

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Pete had some sketches, Mignery came up with some more sketches and then a model.

That model goes something like this:

In the early 1960s there was a camp tender who usually had a packhorse, who rode around the mountains supplying the local sheep camps. He'd occasionally come down to the fledgling town and inevitably run into Pete, who was always happy to tell him what was next on Vail's horizon. The cowboy in "Pete's Dream" represents that cowboy and all of the ranchers who played a vital role in kickstarting Vail, Rey said.

"This is about the risk-takers: Pete, Earl and all those early believers," Rey said.

The monument will be a life-sized bronze sculpture memorializing Pete and the ranchers who established the land and water rights, without which Vail could not exist.

The sculpture will be located in Slifer Square, as you approach Vail's Covered Bridge from the Vail Village parking structure.

Rey and Mignery have the clay model on display in the Claggett/Rey Gallery. Now they're trying to raise $400,000 for the bronze sculpture.

"It's emotional with me," Tilkemeier said.

Roger Tilkemeier is 88 years old and was the first to build houses in East Vail.

Tilkemeier also helped found the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

He was talking about the monument idea with a young man at a Land Trust apres ski party when the young man said, "I don't know much about Pete Seibert."

Tilkemeier explained the history and the money it would take to create the monument.

"Four hundred thousand dollars?!" the young man said. "In this town that's nothing."

It actually is something, but it's not insurmountable, Tilkemeier said.

Vail's Art in Public Places board is behind the idea, and Vail's town council has approved it. The town has also created a Pete's Dream account to make it easier for people to make tax-deductible donations to the project.

They're looking for broad community support, Rey said. If people contribute $100 or $400, or $25,000, then it'll take a couple hundred of folks.

"There's something wonderful about lots of people being involved," Rey said.

The eventual goal is to create something like a museum without walls in conjunction with the nearby Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, honoring Vail's pioneers, Gore Creek Valley ranching families, the 10th Mountain Division and others who helped make Vail possible.

Gore Creek Valley

Technically, Vail is not located in the Vail Valley, because valleys are traditionally named for the rivers and creeks that run through them. Vail is located in the Gore Creek Valley. Vail Resorts' marketing department created the term Vail Valley decades ago.

The Gore Creek Valley was homesteaded and settled by sheep and cattle ranchers in the late 1880s. As they were developing their land and water rights, they were also laying the groundwork for the future development of a ski resort.

One of those local ranchers was Pete's friend and fellow 10th Mountain Division veteran Earl Eaton, who had roamed these mountains since his childhood.

Pete wanted to launch his own ski area, and spent years searching for just the right spot. It's a passion he had carried since he was a kid in Massachusetts where he and childhood friend Morrie Shepard had strung a rope tow and started a tiny ski hill as teenagers.

After World War II ended, Pete and Earl were both working at the Loveland ski area and Pete's search continued. He had rejected several areas around Colorado, when one day Earl told him about some mountains he had known since he was a child.

About 4:30 a.m. on a snowy spring day in the late 1950s, they parked their Army surplus Jeep along U.S. Highway 6, strapped on skis and skins and started climbing. Several hours later they reached the summit and Earl showed Pete what is now Vail's Back Bowls. Pete knew he was looking at his ski area.

Pete and several other investors began raising money and support. They recruited entrepreneurs and a small group of dedicated employees, and after years of planning they built their fledgling ski resort in one summer.

The lifts started turning Dec. 15, 1962. Legend has it that they celebrated Vail's original opening day with dinner at The Lodge at Vail, which was so new that when they sat down to dinner they had to be careful. The paint on the walls was still wet.

"As the ranchers did earlier, the Vail pioneers scratched and scraped to form a community of emotionally charged people who developed a distinct culture of their own, the culture of Vail," Tilkemeier said. "Without them and that essential culture, Vail would not exist today."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

For donation information

For information call Roger Tilkemeier at 505-690-1881, or email roger.tilkemeier@gmail.com.

To send tax deductible donations: Pete Seibert/Gore Valley Ranchers Monument Donation, Town of Vail/Art in Public Places, Attn: Molly Eppard, 1309 Elkhorn Dr., Vail CO 81657