Women of Camp Hale among the winners at 10th Mountain Division-themed July 4 parade in Vail
Crowds gather as local ski troopers' untold stories come to life
VAIL — Crowds lined the streets of Meadow Drive, cars lined the frontage roads, and candy lined kids’ pockets Thursday as thousands of red, white and blue revelers celebrated Independence Day.
The Vail America Days parade honored the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army with this year’s theme, a tribute to Vail as World War II veterans, many of whom served in the 10th Mountain Division, built the ski resort.
Parade marshal Dick Over, now 96 and one of the last living members of the 10th Mountain Division from World War II, reminisced on those days before the festivities began.
“I was very young and really had no idea what the whole thing was about,” Over said. “I followed my dad. My dad was in the Marine Corps in World War I, and I followed him in a number of parades, and now I get to parade myself. It’s a real honor.”
Over was joined by Hugh Evans, another member of the original 10th Mountain Division, which trained at Camp Hale, near Leadville, and fought in WWII. Evans and Over tossed candy to the throngs of children who thanked them for their service — and the candy.
“This is a bigger parade than I thought it was gonna be,” Evans said.
Nearly 1,200 cars spilled out of the parking garages, which were full before 10 a.m., and town of Vail buses deployed in pairs to pick up passengers on their normal routes.
Guests enjoyed a bevy of entertaining and creative floats, including such Vail classics as the Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team, which performed at the White House in the ’90s, along with original WWII vehicles such as a 1946 Jeep CJ-2 Willys that belonged to Battle Mountain graduate John Shaw Vaughan, a lieutenant in the Army who was killed in Iraq in 2006. His mother, Sarah Vaughan, has made a tradition of bringing the vehicle to the Vail America Days parade.
The best float, as a team of judges determined, was the Buddy Werner League’s ski racing-themed exhibition, which — while moving through the crowd — contained a slope and actual snow that young ski racers descended during the parade. The Buddy Werner League in Vail and Beaver Creek celebrated its 50th season this year as a recreational ski league for youth in the Vail Valley, and welcomed local founding family members Vi Brown and her son, ski legend Mike Brown.
Women of Camp Hale
Local Warren Miller movie star Chris Anthony was selected to be a judge; Anthony has just about reached the post-production phase of his new film, “Mission Mangart,” which tells untold stories of the 10th Mountain Division from their time in the Julian Alps, an area of present-day Slovenia where the 10th Mountain Division helped put on the first international ski race to take place following the conclusion of WWII.
In research for the film, Anthony also learned of the women of the 10th Mountain Division, unsung heroes of Camp Hale who performed a variety of non-combat functions within the U.S. Army in Colorado in the 1940s. Anthony plans to honor those 200 women of the 10th Mountain Division with a segment in “Mission Mangart,” which he hopes to release next year on the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of WWII.
Local property rental company InvitedHome received the Most Sustainable Float award Thursday for its display, which honored the Women’s Army Corps Detachment at Camp Hale. The group passed out bookmarks, which told of the women’s efforts to sustain the men at Camp Hale.
“Unfortunately the (Women’s Army Corps’) contributions to Camp Hale have been lost from many of the historical records,” the bookmark read.
Anthony, in an effort to shed light on the omission, will shoot a segment with Mikaela Shiffrin at the Colorado Snowsports Museum later this month. Shiffrin has agreed to tell the women’s’ story, Anthony said.
Other float winners include the Gallegos Corp., which won the Most Distinctive award for their float, which was a partnership with the Vail Veterans Program; Alpine Arts Center, which won the Most Original award for its homemade tribute to the 10th; Vail Resorts, who won Best in Show for its 75th anniversary of Riva Ridge display; Eagle County Schools’ Wild West Days, which won Best Youth float; Sprat Ranch, whose 1950 Dodge pickup truck driven by Vietnam veteran Chip Stratlen, won the Best Motorized division; and the Denver and District Pipe Band won Best Marching/Musical for their supergroup, formed from two of the oldest bagpipe bands in Denver.
Talk about perfect timing. Beaver Creek Resort made the big announcement earlier in the week that it would open Saturday, four days ahead of schedule, and then the flakes started flying.