Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in the new True Grit Walking Walking Tour in Ridgway.
We met at the visitors center by the Railroad Museum, a testament to the history of the railroad and how it influenced the conception of the town.
Fridays in Ridgway are also when the Farmers Market is in the park, so the pleasure of walking through town is accentuated by the sounds of live music wafting through the air.
Even those who are not familiar with the film, or perhaps not avid fans, would not be able to help feeling caught up in the genuine excitement and interest of the guides. A smattering of history is also part of the tour, and Southwest Colorado is filled with fascinating and exciting stories from our not so distant past.
The following press release from the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce highlights quite a bit of information:
Nine historical plaques are being installed in Ridgway and Ouray to commemorate the filming of True Grit in 1968.
The project, brainchild of Ridgway resident John Mitchell, is being coordinated by the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce. The Ouray County Ranch History Museum and the Ouray Chamber Resort Association are also involved in the heritage effort.
In a related economic development initiative, the Ridgway chamber has instituted a weekly walking tour. Entitled “True Grit: The Movie That Put Ridgway on the Map,” the one hour tour is scheduled Fridays at 11 AM.
Tour goers 12 and older pay $10 to attend. Children are free. Additional tours will be scheduled for groups as needed and as awareness and demand grow.
John Wayne won his only Oscar in 1969 for his performance as the crusty, one-eyed Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Queries about the movie and iconic actor are among the most frequent ones received at the Ridgway Visitors Center. The Ridgway Chamber wants to maximize this valuable but under-utilized asset of the town’s heritage.
Each plaque contains a map of the sites, enabling residents and visitors to embark on their own self guided tour at any time, starting at any location. Eleven sites have been identified as being part of or relevant to making the movie in 1968.
Seven of the 12” x 10” plaques cover nine Ridgway locations. The railroad depot, gallows, livery stable, mortuary, Chen Lee’s place, the courthouse facade, True Grit Cafe (built in 1986 as a tribute to John Wayne and True Grit), the saloon and the grocery all are in downtown Ridgway within a two-block area.
The jail wagon has been situated for years on the corner of highways 62 and 550 to welcome visitors in town. Although its location does not allow inclusion in the walking tour, the relic is suggested as a photo opportunity for tour goers.
Two plaques are being placed in Ouray. One will be outside the Ouray County Courthouse where the interior courtroom scenes were filmed. The other identifies The Outlaw Restaurant, which proudly displays John Wayne’s hat, as Wayne’s getaway for playing pool and enjoying a libation.
Messages on the plaques have been crafted to describe the sites’ role in the movie and to convey unusual and interesting facts. As an example, the gallows plaque wording reads: "After finding the mortuary closed with the undertaker gone to the triple hanging, Mattie joins the enthusiastic crowd to watch. The gallows was erected just west of this sign. Although he was not listed in the credits, Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto in the 1949-1957 Lone Ranger TV series, was the middle one of the three condemned men."
Local historian Jim Pettengill played a key role in drafting and reviewing the plaque copy.
A QR code on each plaque refers Smartphone users to a Chamber website page about True Grit filming locations outside of town and additional information about this movie and others made in Southwestern Colorado.
Dave's Mountain Tours (970.728.9749, davesmountaintours.com) utilizes Swiss Pingauzers to transport visitors to remote True Grit sites — Last Dollar Road,Owl Creek Pass, Katie’s Meadow and the snake pit.
Volunteer tour guides are needed for the walking tour. Contact Eve Becker-Doyle at 970.626.9862 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information about this fun opportunity.
The Ridgway Chamber expresses its gratitude and appreciation to donors Jenny Cheek and Larry Harley and the Weaver Family Foundation for making this project possible.
Plaques are expected to be installed by the end of July