Thursday, July 21, 2011

Daly Days 2011

Ravalli Republic

Reliving history: Daly Days brings back memories of times long gone
PERRY BACKUS | Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:29 pm | 

photo by Perry Backus
“Name’s Julius. I live over the laundry. Mrs. Daly allowed me to come here after my lungs started to bother me from working at the smelter in Anaconda.”
“It’s quite a place, isn’t it,” says the bib overall-clad man whose smile radiates outward from underneath a big straw hat.
Another man dressed the same grins as his head nods up and down. The well-worn hoe in his hands makes a good leaning pole.
“This place is a busy one in the summertime,” the man continues, his eyes edging toward the sprawling front porch framed by huge white columns that stretch far into the sky where a group gathers in their turn-of-the-century garb. “We try to mow the grass every three days. Mr. Daly brought in these trees from all different parts of the world. Some did well. Others didn’t do so good.”
As a strong wind starts blowing small branches off the nearby cottonwoods and big drops of rain pelt the ground, Julius and his cousin head toward the safety of the Daly Mansion’s strong roof.
Before he goes, the tall man holds out his hand.
“I’m Ward Caldwell from Stevensville,” he says. “This is Jason Bowers.”
The two are members of the nearly 30 re-enactors who will greet visitors this Saturday at Hamilton’s Daly Mansion as part of the annual Daly Days celebration.
Earlier this week, the crew met for a quick dinner and a chance to rehearse their parts. For a time, the mansion was filled with the lively banter of times long past.
Jennie Pack of Missoula is co-coordinating this annual event that has become an important part in her life.
“I did drama years and years ago, but I had to give it up for a time when family and other responsibilities came,” Pack said. “I saw a little blurb in Missoula four years ago about this event and now here I am. I’m hooked.”
Pack plays the Daly family’s nanny who doesn’t much care for children.
“It’s a fun role to play,” she said. “We don’t know all that much about the family’s nanny. What we do know is being a nanny back then wasn’t a chosen position for most. It was just something you could do to survive.”
Nannies were often isolated from their adult peers. They didn’t fit in with either the servants or the family.
“As a result, many were bitter. Some went insane,” Pack said.
Like all the re-enactors, Pack spends time to learn about her character to ensure that what she says will be historically accurate.
“Mine is more a compilation than others,” she said. “The Daly’s nanny wasn’t documented and it’s nearly impossible to find any good information about anyone specific. So I made somebody up.”
And that’s who Saturday’s visitors will find when they poke their heads around the nursery’s door jamb to see Pack busily knitting or performing some other useful chore.
“I’ll invite them in and let them know that I’m Lizzy, the nanny,” she said. “The conversations we have are just a wonderful thing.”
Meeting the re-enactors is just one of many activities people will find if they choose to take a step back in time at the Daly Mansion from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The day-long event at the mansion includes historic demonstrations, antique cars and farm equipment displays, pony rides and entertainment by the Bitterroot Ragtime Society and Ballet Bitterroot.
In Hamilton, people can dance their worries away Friday night at a street dance and enjoy some more music at a brewfest the next night, or look for good deals at local stores and the annual Art in the Park and see a county commissioner kiss a pig Saturday on the town’s main street. (See accompanying schedule.)
“There really is going to be something for everyone at Daly Days this weekend,” said April Johnson, the mansion’s acting executive director. “Our community is really working to make this a hallmark event and a true community celebration.”
Daly Days kicks off Thursday with a Bitterroot Community Band concert on the mansion lawn beginning at 6:30 p.m. Directed by Shawn Thacker, the band is made up of talented musicians from all parts of the Bitterroot and some from Missoula.
Concert-goers are encouraged to bring a blanket and picnic to better enjoy an evening of traditional band music.
Patty Martin of the Hamilton Downtown Association said Daly Days was started decades ago by local businesses looking for a way to bring people into town during the summer months. Back then, it was called Crazy Days.
“It morphed into something different,” Martin said. “It’s really become a great community event and a chance for businesses to give back by offering some really good deals.”
This year’s event will feature 28 vendors offering all sorts of food and other merchandise in the downtown area. There will be games for children and a cool car show for the adults.
“We’re hoping to bring a lot of people to town,” Martin said. “Maybe along the way, they’ll discover a new store or two. We have five new businesses that have opened their doors recently.”
Back at the mansion, Johnson said Daly Days is an opportunity for those who care about this historic place to say thank you to the community.
“Our community is really important to us,” she said. “The mansion is run by a nonprofit. A lot of people assume that we receive state funds to help us operate, but we don’t.
“We count on the continuing support from our community,” Johnson said. “We appreciate everything they do.”
For some, Daly Days is simply a chance to relive history for a moment or two.
“The first year that I was here, I had one of those moments,” Pack remembered. “I could hear voices in the living room and the sound of small children’s feet running by in the hall. I could smell bread baking in the kitchen.”
“For just a moment, this place really came alive,” she said. “It was like I had stepped back in time. It’s pretty special here. The setting is just amazing.”

Read more: