Steamboat Springs A Yurich wedding party stares stern-faced from a photo at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
"To this day, there has never been a wedding in Oak Creek as big as my parents'," wrote Peter Yurich. His father moved to America from Croatia in 1914 and his mother arrived from Slovenia seven years later. The wedding was an Eastern European affair complete with accordions and homemade plum brandy. The entire wedding party paraded through the streets of Oak Creek to a celebration that lasted three days.
"There were several hundred Slavic people and they celebrated throughout Sunday, Monday and Tuesday," Yurich wrote. "Traditional foods were prepared: roasted goat, lamb and an entire pig."
Yurich's mother, Rose Brokovitch, was popular as one of the few single Slavic women in an area well-populated with single Slavic coal miners, but it was Frank Yurich who won her hand.
"In order to understand my parents' wedding," Yurich wrote, "you must visualize Oak Creek around 1920. It was a booming coal mining area ... and Oak Creek was the center for shopping and entertainment."
Oak Creek was home to sub-communities from Italy, Mexico, Japan, Greece and Eastern Europe.
The photo of the Yurichs' wedding on the wall of the Tread of Pioneers Museum is part of a new exhibit titled, "A Century of Valley Vows." It's an interesting way to tell the story of the valley. Behind every wedding dress is the story of an era, a family and a love affair.
Immediately upon entering the small front gallery of the museum, visitors are struck by the small-waisted wedding dress of Frances Wither. The dress was handmade in 1911 with lace imported from France. Frances' mother was the first bride to wear it in 1912. An antique lace bridesmaid's dress from the same wedding also is on display.
"I, Frances Colt Wither, wore my mother's dress on my wedding day on January 14, 1940," Wither wrote. "I married Robert Wither of Steamboat Springs at my parents' home in Las Animas. Although my mother's veil did not survive the many years in the cedar chest and the shoes did not fit, I was able to wear my mother's long kid gloves with the dress that my mother wore 30 years before." The tradition continued when Frances Wither's granddaughter, Tiffany Wither Leeson, wore the dress at her wedding August 24, 1996. Tiffany Wither married Tom Leeson at the Steamboat Springs home of her parents, Peter and Barbie Wither.
"Although it was suggested that the dress should be donated to the Historical Museum of Denver, I am keeping it for a granddaughter's future wedding," Wither wrote.
Wither's wedding dress was the first to be donated to the exhibit, curator Candice Lombardo said, and it became the centerpiece.
The second donation came from Shaunna Litton Watterson, a fourth-generation resident of the Yampa Valley. She contributed a family wedding dress from a 1910 Clark wedding.
The exhibit explores not only family traditions, but also changing wedding traditions in America as a whole. Rancher Vernon Summer donated a family heirloom wedding dress from 1855. The dress is purple, a stark contrast to the white gown that fills the rest of the room.
"White seems to be a tradition that started in this country," Lombardo said. "If you look at wedding portraits from Europe, they are wearing black, purple and burgundy.
"One theory I heard is that they didn't have the money for special dresses to be worn only once. Whatever they wore to the wedding they would probably wear later."
The exhibit also includes wedding memorabilia from Margaret Squire Hogue's wedding, the wedding of Lulie Crawford and Carr Pritchett, Mr. and Mrs. Henry McPhee, John and Ellen Radford and Ayliffe Jones' marriage to Peter Henry Zehner.
"One good thing about this exhibit," Lombardo said, "a lot of times you only hear about families like the Werners, the Withers and the Fetchers.
"This is a chance to learn about other pioneer and old-time families."