Wild West Day pays for ‘fun’ things in schools | VailDaily.com

Wild West Day pays for ‘fun’ things in schools

Kristin Anderson/Daily file photo

WOLCOTT, Colorado ” Mitch Forsberg, also known as “Menacing Mitch” according to his “Wanted” poster, will go to jail Sunday at Wild West Day.

The Gypsum Elementary principal has been thrown in jail the past five years, and is at the mercy of his students. They can pay to bail him out, or they’ll pay to keep him in. Either way, the money will go to the school district.

“It’s a good time ” I try to challenge the other principals and other people in jail to see who can raise the most money, and we have a good time with that,” Forsberg said.

Wild West Day, a cowboy-themed festival held at 4-Eagle Ranch every year, has been the big fundraiser for the school district’s elementary schools for the past 18 years.

Money raised at Wild West Day helps pay for elementary “wish lists” ” things like new books, after-school programs, field trips and art supplies that really improve a child’s education, but aren’t covered by state funding, said Mary Witt, chair of Wild West Day.

“Colorado is a poorly funded state for education,” Witt said.

States on average, spend around $9,000 per student a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while Colorado spends closer to $7,000 a year. So, most schools here feel there’s plenty students need that the state can’t provide.

Last year, Wild West Day brought in more than $200,000, which added up to around $20,000 per elementary school. Parent Teacher Associations at each school decide how the money is spent.

“We have some very loyal sponsors of the event, but we’re trying to expand our search and find more grant money,” Witt said. “There’s a lot of support here for schools ” the community is just so in this together.”

Anne Heckman, principal at Brush Creek Elementary, said money earned from Wild West Day helps pay for a theater program at her school. For a couple months out of the year, the school is able to hire a theater teacher who helps the students put on some pretty nice productions.

“Theater has been one of the things Brush Creek has been able to offer, and we wouldn’t be able to do that without the money,” Heckman said.

Wild West Day money also helped the school buy an operate a greenhouse for science classes, and helps teachers buy little things for the classroom ” books, posters and materials for art projects.

“It brings enrichment above the basic curriculum to these kids,” Heckman said. “We have to educate more than their math and science brains.”

With Wild West Day money, Gypsum Elementary has taken its students on field trips to places like the Fairy Caves in Glenwood Springs, Forsberg said.

“We look to augment some funding shortfalls, like classroom and libraries needing more books, but as much as possible, we like to use those funds to go to fun things,” Forsberg said.

Last year, Edwards Elementary was able to purchase a computer projector, Spanish and English books, Everyday Math Literacy books and a set of World Book Encyclopedias. Edwards also used money for the Web-based Accelerated Readers Program, field trips, assemblies and snowshoes for the P.E. department.

Red Hill brought in authors, bought teaching supplies, and paid for teacher training and special conferences. Red Sandstone was able to buy new art supplies, white boards, playground equipment and Time for Kids magazines.

For the few of you who have never been, Wild West Day feels like a cowboy carnival.

Kids can play all sorts of games, eat burgers and hot dogs, ride horses and wagons, buy some time on the rock climbing wall, and even see their principal thrown in “jail.”

You can also catch performances by Too Young to Know, Donny “Z” Ziegelbein and the Porchlight Players, buy goodies from the bake sale and place a bid in a silent auction.

The students have also been spending hours selling raffle tickets, which in the past have brought in around $47,000. This year, raffle prizes include a Vail Resorts ski pass, a one-year movie pass for Riverwalk and Capital theaters, a $500 Valbruna shopping spree, and a one-year, $50 a month shopping spree at Wishes Toy Store.

You can also buy Wild West Day T-shirts, which for the first time in 18 years have a new design. This past spring, Brush Creek Elementary had an art class contest among all the third graders, and Zoe Braun’s drawing was picked by a panel of art teachers. This will start a tradition of new designs every year, Witt said.

“Many people will go to a running race just to get the shirt ” so we kind of want people to see the value in each separate year,” Witt said. “Next year, it will be designed by third graders at Meadow Mountain Elementary.”

– Wild West Day is Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 4 Eagle Ranch.

– 4 Eagle Ranch is located four miles north of Wolcott. Take exit 157 off Interstate 70 and head north on Highway 131 for 4 miles. The ranch is on the right, and signs will point you in the right direction. Parking is free.

– If you don’t’ want to make the drive, shuttle buses will be running from Avon Elementary, June Creek Elementary, Edwards Elementary, Gypsum Elementary and Eagle Valley Elementary. Call your schools for more information on pick up times.

– Admission is $5 for adults and children 3 and older.

– For more information, visit http://www.wildwestday.org.

To learn more about how schools use Wild West Day proceeds, visit http://www.wildwestday.org/schools/proceed_usage.cfm

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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