Anyone who says that history is old, dusty or dead has never seen a live performance designed to shine a spotlight on characters and stories from the past.
This is exactly what the Summit Historical Society plans to do with its new series called “Pastry and the Past.”
The series, which begins today, July 22, features a weekly hour-long historical lecture paired with desserts. While previous history-related events in Frisco have been held during the day, Christy Nelson, of the Summit Historical Society, hoped to create an event that the working, touring crowd could easily attend.
“The concept … was something that could attract those who can’t make it to other venues that are during the day because they’re just too busy or too active,” she said.
For the pastry portion of the evening, Nelson rounded up friends and locals with good baking reputations. Each lecture will feature a spread of homemade desserts.
While the pastries feed the body, the words of the lecturers will feed the mind.
Bringing the past to life
The first lecture of the series will be given by Sandie Mather, who is well known among all three Summit County historical societies for her vast knowledge of area history and for her portrayals of historical figure Anna Sadler
Mather first came to Summit County in 1979, drawn by the area’s geography and history, to finish her dissertation in the field of historical and physical geography. Since then, she has returned often, splitting her time between Summit County and her job as professor emerita at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She has written 13 books about the history of Summit County, including “They Weren’t All Prostitutes and Gamblers,” which addresses the topic of women in the county.
While writing the book, Mather came across the diary of Sadler, a woman from the Midwest who moved to Breckenridge with her husband.
“I was so excited,” she said of the find. She used what she found in the diary’s pages to finish her book and, eventually, take on Sadler’s persona at historical events, even dressing to fit the part.
“I used her diary, I used what I knew about the women who lived here, (and) I used the newspaper because the society editor constantly talked about what these women were doing, so I could put together her life,” Mather said.
One of the best aspects of a live performance, rather than simply a reading or discussion, Mather said, is that it really brings to light all the differences between past and present.
“They (the audience) really have no idea what it was like to live out here. It’s just such a different world,” she said. “We pick up cellphones; they waited weeks for a letter to get from home.”
Through her years of research, and her access to Sadler’s personal diary and thoughts, Mather feels that she can accurately portray the historical figure.
“Oh yes, I can become Anna. I can really think what it was like,” Mather said. “I can empathize.”
In addition to performing as Sadler, Mather will give two other lectures — a presentation on the saloons of Summit County and a lecture on the geology and vegetation of the area.
The series’ second lecture will be given by local historian and author Bill Fountain, who will discuss prospectors seeking gold in east Breckenridge from the 1890s to the 1920s.
Rick Hague, another local historian, will present two lectures — one on the hard-rock mining days of the 1880s and ’90s and the series’ final presentation at the end of August on the history of Summit County’s Washington Mine.
All of the presenters have done vast amounts of research on their topics, Nelson said.
“I’m pretty excited about the whole series,” she said.
An hour before the performances, most of which take place at the Dillon Community Church, the Dillon Schoolhouse will be open to those interested in visiting.
“The schoolhouse is incredibly interesting,” Nelson said. “It is set up as it was back in 1883 when it was built.”
While children are certainly welcome at the lectures, the presentations are more intellectually geared toward adults, she said. The series is free for Summit Historical Society members, while nonmembers are asked to give a donation.
“All of the proceeds will go to the Summit Historical Society, with our mission being to preserve,” she said. This includes a number of buildings throughout the county, which the society has worked to preserve. “Our goal also is to educate and to disseminate the incredible history that’s here, to share (it) with folks. I was a person who’s lived here 10 years, and until this year, I really didn’t have an appreciation of the incredible history.
“I know there are a lot more folks out there who live here and just don’t know. So that’s my hope, to not only provide for the historical society and our preservation projects but to also educate.”
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.