Monday, February 24, 2014

Lost Dutchman Days 2014

February 17, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The old prospector of lost mine fame, Jacob Waltz, left quite a legacy for the State of Arizona when he died in Phoenix on Sunday, October 25, 1891. His death marked the beginning of a period of mystery, intrigue, myth and cryptic clues about a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. Today some believe Waltz had a rich gold mine and others claimed it to be just a fable.

As we celebrate this, the 50th Lost Dutchman Days, we should think about all the stories these old-timers left behind. Most are fiction, but some are true. Our state is unique with its many stories of lost mines, cowboys, gunfighters, miners, prospectors, lawman, ministers, farmers, ranchers, jurist, and politicians. These were the men and women who helped Arizona make the transition from territorial status to the modern state it is today.

Stories such as the Dutchman’s mine compels some to search the deep canyons and towering spires of the Superstition Wilderness for the lost gold. Prospectors, treasure hunters and the curious come from far and near for a look at the Superstition Mountains and to try their luck at searching for gold. However most come to enjoy the climate, scenery, tranquility and solitude of the mountains.

The first major group to take advantage of this international interest was the Phoenix Dons Club now known as The Dons of Arizona. Their first annual Superstition Mountain Trek was held in 1934. The Dons Club, in an attempt to further commemorate the history and lore of the Lost Dutchman Mine and Superstition Mountain, constructed the Lost Dutchman Monument in Apache Junction in 1938. The monument was rededicated after standing for fifty years. Almost 400 dignitaries and citizens from around Arizona rededicated the monument on February 28, 1988. The governor of Arizona was the keynote speaker for the occasion.

Thousands of families have stopped to admire the monument over the years. Many have their photograph taken with the monument in the background. Sam Lowe, columnist for the Arizona Republic wrote about the historical significance of the monument in the lives of many prominent Arizonians including Arizona governors, legislators and historians. Recently the City of Apache Junction dedicated a bronze statue of the prospector and burro at the City Hall complex on October 4, 2011. The prospector and burro have become the motif of Apache Junction, unique to our community.

The Apache Junction Lions Club so valued the legacy of the Lost Dutchman Mine story and the Dons monument they implemented the Apache Junction Burro Derby in 1958. The Burro Derby drew thousands to Apache Junction and Hollywood movie stars often became involved with the Burro Derby when they were in town filming at Apache Land.

As I recall, St. George’s Catholic Church started a Mardi Gras parade. Lost Dutchman Days evolved in 1965 under the guidance and support of Colonel Rodgers. Lulu Luebben named the event "Lost Dutchman Days." Lulu’s husband Roy became the first officially elected Lost Dutchman. If I recalled correctly, the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce organized the event each year after 1964. This year’s event will be the 50th Annual Lost Dutchman Days.

Missing from Lost Dutchman Days after more than two decades of dedication and devotion is Gary Mulholland. He was the man who probably saved Lost Dutchman Days through forming the Superstition Mountain Promotional Corporation. Gary passed away in 2011, and Lost Dutchman Day 2012 was dedicated in the memory of Mr. Gary Mulholland who’s motto was "putting smiles on kid’s faces." Today the motto of Lost Dutchman Days remains "putting smiles on kid’s faces."

The new chairman is Denny Walters, and Lost Dutchman Days is known around the world because of the notoriety of Jacob Waltz and his lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Each year this celebration draws thousands people to Apache Junction for fun and to share in our history, and the event requires a tremendous amount of volunteer energy and ingenuity to pull it off each year.

Lost Dutchman Days is marked by volunteer dedication everywhere you look. If it were not for community volunteers, there would be no Lost Dutchman Days. It is through their efforts our community puts its best foot forward, and we need to recognize the businesses and sponsors who so strongly support this event. It is also important we recognized the resources and support committed by the City of Apache Junction since 1978, when the city was first incorporated.

Recently I had to explain to an old timer how to find the burro and prospector monument in downtown Apache Junction because of our recent growth. He recalled having his picture taken there in 1939. He said, "When I had that picture taken, there was nothing between the monument and Superstition Mountain."
I then mentioned Lost Dutchman Days to him. His reply was simple, "You mean the old prospector and burro has an event named after them? It sure pays to hunt gold in these hills friend."

Please come out and celebrate Lost Dutchman Days with the fine people of Apache Junction on February 21, 22 and 23, 2014. This celebration includes a parade, a rousing Rodeo Dance, a carnival, Polka contest, gold panning, a Senior Pro Rodeo, and lots of good food and entertainment.

Community events have sustained Arizona through good times and bad times and have been important to Arizona’s sustained growth and prosperity. These events bring people together to enjoy the best of Arizona, its climate, culture, scenery, and people.

If you need information about Lost Dutchman Days call (480)982-3141.