CITY OF OURAY Small effort brings annual New Year’s tradition
Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 17:43
By Sheridan Block
At the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, colorful flares and sparkling flashes will light up the night sky as crackles and booms ring in the new year in the mountains of Ouray.
The major annual tradition for the small city finds its humble beginnings in the hands of two local women.
In the mid-1980s, Barbara Morss worked as the manager for the Ouray County Chamber of Commerce. Going about her daily duties, Morss received a letter from an individual looking for more information about the city and its traditions. The letter cited rumors that back in the day, miners would set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the end of the year and ring in the next.
“I never heard that and thought it was cool,” Morss said.
Together with fellow Ouray local Dee Williams, the pair set out to raise money and plan the first ever New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Ouray.
Morss recalled contacting businesses and people around town asking for donations. In 1989, Morss published a column in the Plaindealer titled “The Chamber Pot,” reminding community members to make donations for the annual fireworks show.
The duo raised $1,000 in their efforts for the premiere showcase, which was “quite a bit then” said Morss. With the funds, Morss and WIlliams recruited help from the volunteer fire department and since then, the New Year’s Eve fireworks has become a beloved community tradition during the holiday season.
Morss and Williams continued to spearhead the event until the early 1990s when the Chamber officially took over the display as part of its expenditures. The Ouray Chamber Resort Association now makes room in its annual budget for the New Year’s fireworks, along with those for the Fourth of July and Oktoberfest shows. This year, the budget for the New Year’s Day fireworks is $20,000, with the money coming from various fundraisers throughout the year, including the annual Jeep Raffle Sales (need to double check).
While no longer involved with the organization of the annual show, Morss said that every time she thinks about or sees the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, she can’t help but feel a little sense of pride.
“It’s a little more magical in the winter… and it’s a pretty spectacular way to start the new year,” she said.
The Ouray Volunteer Fire Department will set off fireworks at midnight on Jan. 1.