This is for those of you who simply zoom past Limon on Interstate 70: Whoa! Pull into the little town on the eastern plains, and you'll find a modest but intriguing place called the Limon Heritage Museum and Railroad Park.
Housed in the town's old Rock Island-Union Pacific depot, the museum's attractions include a walk-in dining car and caboose, a sheepherder's wagon, a one-room schoolhouse and an 1892 boxcar filled with some weathered beauties from local biology teacher Don Bailey's personal saddle collection.
"I always liked cowboy things," Bailey says. "I was raised on a small ranch fifty miles out of Limon, and I just always wanted to be around saddles." The 30 saddles on view at the museum represent only a small portion of his collection of 250. Bailey, plainspoken and just a regular guy, is a good representative of Limon's small-town, no-big-deal way of life, which is based, it seems, on community spirit, picnics and lots of small talk. "Limon is old-fashioned in some ways compared to other places," Bailey says. "The school still has a dress code.
"I have to wear a tie," he adds, when pressed to elaborate.
Together with members of the Limon Heritage Society and residents of Limon and its surrounding area, Bailey is showing support for the town museum this weekend by helping host the annual Western Festival Trail Ride and Parade. The event, which Bailey organizes, is designed to appeal to lovers of horses and iron horses alike, but its primary purpose is to draw attention to the rustic museum, which reopens for the summer each year on June 1 in the hopes of attracting some of the cross-country traffic blowing by.
There's no special historical significance to the trail ride itself, Bailey says, though it has ties in the area. "Everybody my age loved the romance of the cowboy--Gene Autry and Roy Rogers," he explains. "I was fortunate enough to be raised that way." But it's an opportunity to see a lot of beautiful horseflesh in one place on one day, and though it's not a high-budget affair, it's still a heck of a lot of fun.
In its first year, the ride amounted to thirty raggedy horsemen and a ten-minute parade--"and it was over," Bailey says of the event. Since then the number of riders has increased to more than 200, and the parade lineup has grown to include a fleet of fancy carriages, wagons and even a fine six-horse hitch. "We're not blessed with a lot of money," Bailey says. "We don't have huge dealerships sponsoring us or anything like that." But he credits the owner of the local Arby's for helping to get things rolling. During a "Go West Arby's" advertising campaign several years ago, some of the townspeople held a meeting at which they decided to ask the fast-food restaurant to put some money where its mouth was: "We decided they ought to be supporting the museum," Bailey says. Fortunately, the owner liked the plan and agreed to help. "He was totally a city boy," Bailey says. "Since then he's owned five or six horses and learned to ride--he's changed his life completely."
In addition to bankrolling the event, the financial help has allowed the town to attract a celebrity Grand Marshal each year. This year's luminary will be actor James Drury, who starred on the old TV oater The Virginian.
"It's a neat parade," Bailey says. "The museum is very small-time, but it's excellent." And, he notes, you won't find a nicer group of people to hobnob with anywhere in the world. "It's an all-around good place to raise a family," he says. "It's just an American place to be."
Limon Western Festival Trail Ride and Parade, June 12-13. Parade, 10 a.m. June 13, 6th Street, Limon. For ride information call 1-719-775-2903.