Museum considers special events

ALAMOSA — Melodramas, duck derby, teepee tours, pressed pennies and a celebration of a pre-Pilgrims Thanksgiving are some of the ideas for drawing more visitors to the San Luis Valley Museum in Alamosa.

Museum board and staff members shared some of their ideas for new attractions with the Alamosa County Marketing District Board on Thursday. The board had discussed ways in which it might provide more funding for the museum and asked for recommendations for specific events that could be presented as grant funding requests in the future.

Marketing board member Jeff Owsley told the rest of the board that he had spoken with SLV Museum Office Manager Joyce Gunn and Museum Board President Dorothy Brandt about developing some new events that could draw people to Alamosa, “which would be wonderful because they could be in hotel rooms, spend some money in the area.”

Gunn discussed some of the event ideas as well as a proposal for a penny maker machine at the museum. She said these are popular in other museums. For example, the museum in Casper, Wyoming paid $3,500 for their machine, and it paid for itself within a month, she said. The museum charged 75 cents plus the penny. Some areas charge up to $2 plus the penny, she said.

With the museum’s connection as an official museum for Zebulon Pike, that would be a logical subject for pressed pennies here, she explained. This could be a major draw, as this would be the only place to get these specific pennies, she said.

Other possible attractions/events include:

  • The duck derby would be the local version of the Kentucky Derby with mint ice cream instead of juleps.
  • The museum could schedule a husband/wife from Washington who have made their own teepee and take it to various locations where they provide tours. People pay for the tour, and a portion goes to the venue hosting it.
  • In the summer of 1598, 23 years before the pilgrims’ Thanksgiving, explorer Juan de Oñate held a Mass of Thanksgiving as part of his expedition from Mexico City into present day New Mexico. Gunn said a festival commemorating this event could be scheduled between other events in the summertime and become quite a draw.
  • The museum could host melodramas on the patio or in its conference room, which holds 120, depending on the time of year, Gunn suggested. Melodramas could draw people of all ages both as participants and audiences, she said. No melodrama is the same, as participants make the hero/villain story their own, she added.

“Melodramas are a ton of fun,” said Marketing Board President Robert Oringdulph.

Owsley said perhaps the marketing district staff could assist with marketing some of these events. He said through his role as director of the SLV Small Business Development Center he would also be wiling to help the museum.

Liz Thomas Hensley, the city’s liaison to the marketing board and an Adams State professor, said perhaps Adams State could also partner on some of the events.

Owsley suggested that another way to raise money for specific events is through sponsorships.

Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jamie Greeman said some of the events proposed by the museum could also serve as fund-raisers for the museum.

Owsley and the board also talked about the museum’s budget and some of its operating needs. Owsley pointed out that the museum’s financial profit/loss statement reflected a $6,152 loss last year due to increased liability insurance costs, unbudgeted contract salary of $4,757 and some unforeseen repairs.

He said that in addition to specific events the museum is considering, it has ongoing needs, some of which could bring in more revenue, such as changing exhibits out and enhancing the gift shop.

The museum board would also like to increase the number of employees, he said. Other needs involve infrastructure such as roof, lights and floor, for which the museum board would like to be able to set aside money.

Oringdulph asked if there were grants for museums. Gunn said there are construction grants but not grants for maintenance. She said there are matching funds available through USDA for some items such as computers, chairs and tables. The museum board would like to replace some of its old cases, which might be a possibility for matching funds.

Brandt said the museum does not have money for matching grants.

Hensley suggested that if the museum was applying for grants that required matching funds, perhaps the marketing district could help provide some of those matching funds.

The board also talked about providing a lump-sump increase for the museum’s budget for 2018, but the board did not settle on a specific amount on Thursday night.

Oringdulph told the museum contingent they had done a good job, and the work they are doing with children can leave impressions for a lifetime. He said he still remembered visits to Fort Garland as a child.
Brandt said there would be no museum today if it were not for the efforts of Jo Bowers who operated the museum out of the old jail location near city hall. She also acknowledged the work Gunn is currently doing at the museum, much of it behind the scenes with data collecting and cataloguing.

“Everyone’s important that has had a hand in it,” Brandt said. “That museum belongs to the people … not a private person, not this board. It will be here when we are all gone.”