Western Welcome Week, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to carrying on the tradition of greater Littleton — yesterday, today and tomorrow — with the annual Western Welcome Week Celebration. WesternWelcomeWeek.org
Soon after Houstoun Waring became editor of the Littleton Independent, he began looking for ways to promote Littleton. In 1928, he came upon the idea to celebrate the 100th birthday of Richard S. Little, the city's founder, with a "Homecoming" for everyone who had ever lived in or visited Littleton.
Originally the Homecoming was set for May 12, 1929, on Little's birthday, but when it was pointed out that railroad rates dropped in August and therefore "...people can come from great distances without much expense," the now traditional August date was set.
|Western Welcome Parade, 1962.|
Among the festivities was a parade, sponsored by the Hose Company, who invited everyone with a decorated car or truck to participate. As luck would have it, rain accompanied the parade, but that did not dampen the spirits of participants or spectators. An Essex, entered by the Bussard Motor Company won first place in the car division, while the winning truck represented Valore Hardware.
The following are highlights of Western Welcome Week history:
Featured the appearance of two airplanes. The Littleton Independent printed up handbills and had the pilots drop them among the throngs on Main Street. Certain ones were redeemable for $1 at the Independent. The Independent also invited the two pilots to give rides to Littletonites at $1 apiece.
Now sponsored by the Hose Company, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees and the Junior Women's Club, the afternoon parade was preceded in the morning by carnival rides and competitions and followed in the evening by a huge dance at the newly opened Sterne Park. It also snowed; ruining the Littleton Independent's annual contest to predict the date of the first snowfall before it had begun.
The grand marshals for the parade were Governor and Mrs. Edwin Johnson and former Mayor Louthan was named an honorary marshal.
A trick cow, Queenie, who proved to be one of the sensations of the parade, led the Homecoming Day parade, which celebrated Littleton's 75th anniversary.
By 1948 the Homecoming tradition was firmly established in Littleton which now also featured a special city day during the Arapahoe County fair. Grand marshal of the parade was Sheriff Charles Foster.
First annual Lion's Club Barbeque.
The 1952 Homecoming Days festivities were almost skipped until just a few weeks before they were scheduled; Jack Thomas and Verne Bergman of the Chamber of Commerce took the initiative and got things rolling. The waning of enthusiasm might have been a reflection of the malaise and fear of the Cold War era.
Houstoun Waring, editor emeritus of the Littleton Independent, founded the Old Timer's Luncheon as a way to bring the core of the city's citizenry together. Awards were given for the oldest, the person who came the greatest distance and more.
The grand parade had a special significance as Colorado Governor Steve McNichols cut the ribbon officially opening Littleton Blvd. The parade fell in behind McNichols with Littleton Mayor A. N. Williams, Mayor John Caulkins of Greenwood Village, Mayor Ed Scott of Englewood, and County Commissioner John Christensen.
The first Sidewalk Art Show was held in 1959. The Horseshoe Tournament was new this year.
Homecoming and the Little Britches Rodeo were combined under the theme of Riding High in 1960.
The celebration this year was devoted to the Sister City Exchange which was started in 1961 by two newspaper editors — Houstoun Waring and Curly Anabel, editor or the Bega, Australia newspaper. The entire parade had an Australian theme under the chairmanship of Bob DeKoevend of the Jaycees.
This was the first year that the term Western Welcome Celebration was used. It started out under the name Homecoming Days, later it became Westward Ho Days; and finally in 1962, a resident George Landers, renamed it to Western Welcome Week.
Once it was named Western Welcome Week, the event was expanded from a one-day homecoming celebration to eight days of festivities including the grand parade, a concert and the firework show. Other activities added were car shows, book sales, theatrical performances, and “Lucky” White the fast-draw gun artist.
Sheriff Foster, who had been sheriff for 21 years, was honorary grand marshal. The grand marshal was Robert Micheles, who was a member of the Arapahoe County Sheriff Dept. posse and associated with the Little Britches Rodeo.
The Marine Corps color guard led off the 1964 parade, and the sheriff’s posse escorted Ralph Moody, author of the children’s books based on his childhood in Littleton after the turn of the century; Edwin A. Bemis, publisher of the Littleton Independent; Congressman Don Brotzman and District Attorney Martin Miller.
The grand parade was led by Honorary Mayor Bemis with a special added feature this year… aerial bombs were set off near the Woodlawn Shopping Center and again as the parade crossed the railroad tracks into downtown.
Jose Trujillo and his brothers took over the organization of the Horseshoe Tournament which began in 1959.
The 1967 parade again had a Bega theme. Grand marshals were the Dom Brady family from Bega, Australia. The Littleton YMCA started the annual Fun Run.
"Littleton Then and Now" was the theme of the parade. The Friends of the Library and Museum started the Used Book Sale, with proceeds benefiting the Bemis Public Library and the Littleton Historical Museum.
The decade ended with a grand parade theme of “From Gold to the Moon.”
Lt. Gov. Mark Hogan led off the 1970 parade which had a theme of “A Home for All Seasons.”
Four separate events at the YMCA opened WWW on Friday, August 7, 1971. Dick Busse, YMCA director said that 300 people enjoyed a pancake-and-ham supper at poolside before the show. The program included introductions of the queens in the Western Welcome Pageant by Mrs. Joanne Lamb, followed by a fashion show, entertainment by Betty Ryer’s dancers and tumblers, and concluding with a water show.
The grand parade grew to 90 units under the theme of “Crossroads of Rails and Trails.” Alex Hannum, coach for the Denver Rockets basketball team, was the grand marshal.
Leading off the parade was Lt. Gov. John Vanderhoof as grand marshal. Honorary marshals were Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Moody and Sheriff Foster.
It was “The Good Times” in 1973, and according to tradition the parade was led by the Littleton Police Department color guard.
The theme for the 1974 parade was “Great Gatsby Days” and the parade was filled with entries as bootleggers and flappers. The grand marshal was Houstoun Waring, editor emeritus of the Littleton Independent.
During Western Welcome Week festivities South Suburban Parks and Recreation dedicated Bega Park in downtown Littleton.
Maida Navis, chairman of the Inter-Faith Task Force was 1975’s grand marshal of the parade which depicted “Littleton’s Western Spirit.”
The first logo was created in 1976; it was the letters WWW and a drawing of a horse inside a circle. The logo later became a cowboy boot with the letters WWW on the top part of the boot.
The 1977 Western Welcome Week also doubled as "Houstoun Waring Week" with the theme of "50 Years of Headlines". Waring led the parade as grand marshal.
The theme was “The Pioneer Spirit” and it was led by Charlie Tickner, world figure skater champion who hailed from Bow Mar and trained at South Suburban Ice Arena.
By 1979 one of the most important and popular events in Littleton's Western Welcome Week was the sidewalk art show. In its 20th year in 1979 the show was more than a display of fine art. 1979 was also the first year for the Fiddlin' Contest.
The first Carousel of Music concert was held in the courtyard at the Littleton Center. People brought their picnics and enjoyed the music of the Gold Nugget Brass Band and the Littleton Chorale.
Western Welcome Week was part of the Littleton Chamber of Commerce. It was a tradition to have club and civic organizations' representatives sit on the WWW Board: for example, Breakfast Optimist, Downtown Merchants, Optimists, Elks, Jaycees, Lion, Rotary, Y's Men, and Woodlawn Merchants. The Littleton Chamber of Commerce was the coordinator.
In 1980 the first Golf Tournament and Family Pancake Breakfast was held, featuring all-you-can eat pancakes and sizzlin' sausage by Jose's Restaurant.
The first Children's Parade, sponsored by the Littleton Fire Department, was held in conjunction with Family/Festival Day.
This year saw the first annual Chili Cook-Off.
Western Welcome Week, Inc. was incorporated in 1982; the announcement of incorporation of the annual WWW festivities was made by the Centennial Chamber of Commerce President Jim Gammon.
A nine-member board for Western Welcome Week, Inc. was responsible for setting policy guidelines, designating a charity or cause to receive the proceeds, and appointing a chairman and co-chairman to organize the event each year. Houstoun Waring, editor emeritus of the Littleton Independent, was appointed as chairman emeritus of Western Welcome Week.
This year included the first WWW Horse Show.
WWW no longer operated under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, it became totally dependent upon the business community and any fundraising events which contributed to the operating funds. The practice of corporate sponsorships began. Entry fees for the various events made up the rest of the operating budget.
The horse show moved to Ketring Park and was organized as a jumping show until 1990. The theme of the year was “Tis Music to My Ears” and the grand marshal was Larry Green of the Channel 4 News.
Parade theme: "The Spirit of the American West” and the grand marshal was Randy Gradishar. The Western Welcome Week guest of honor was “Huey” Burke.
The coach of the Denver Nuggets, Doug Moe, was the grand marshal and the theme was “Challenge the West.”
In 1987, the life-size four-figure bronze sculpture entitled "Homeward Bound" was dedicated at a ceremony as part of Western Welcome Week. The City of Littleton's Fine Arts Committee commissioned the sculpture by a Steamboat Springs sculptress, Susan Grant Raymond, after viewing 30 other entries. Susan Raymond who grew up in Littleton, helped dedicate the sculpture which consists of two draft horses led by a man with a child riding one of the horses and a colt trailing behind the team. The sculpture is located at the intersection of South Prince and Santa Fe Drive adjacent to the South Platte River.
The Jackass Hill Ski Patrol, formed by a group of Littleton City employees, marched for the first time in the WWW grand parade. Sporting tee-shirts with a cartoon jackass and the theme "Catch the Spirit--Ski Jackass Hill," they captured the hearts of parade watchers and officials, winning the first place trophy.
The newest event for WWW was the Mini Grand Prix, an Olympic-style stadium horse jumping. With the theme of “Homeward Bound,” Jose Trujillo was the grand marshal and Gale Christy was the guest of honor.
Western Welcome Week celebrated its 60th Anniversary this year. The theme for Western Welcome Week was "Where the West is Fun!" The parade theme, "Western Hands Across the Sea", recognized the Bega/Littleton Sister City Exchange; Houstoun Waring and the Hanzlik family from Bega, Australia were the honored guests.
The parade theme was “Western Pride Lives On"; Brad and Mary Bradford were honored as grand marshals with their special guest, Governor Roy Romer.
This year's theme was "One Hundred Years Young" in honor of Littleton's 100th anniversary. The parade had six grand marshals. All were long-time residents and current or former Main Street merchants.
Also, this year a new event added spice to the traditional events with the Opening Night Concert and Fireworks in Sterne Park. The Arapahoe Philharmonic performed with T. Gordon Parks conducting.
For the first time WWW boasted a unique addition; a turn of the century carriage driving event with costumed drivers. The horse show changed to WWW Horse & Carriage Show. Entries were mostly carriages.
WWW Board of Directors honored Houstoun Waring with the "Houstoun Waring Lifetime of Distinguished Service to the Community" award.
This year’s grand parade theme was “Take Us out the Ball Game” paying tribute to the Denver Zephyrs, and giving a rousing Western Welcome to the Rockies. The baseball coaches from the three Littleton High Schools were the grand marshals.
“Littleton-Hometown USA” was the theme in 1993 with Betty Mulvey as the grand marshal. The horse show became the Horse, Carriage and Gaited Horse Show.
The first ever Western Welcome Week circus performed under a blue and white striped tent at Arapahoe Community College. The one-ring family-oriented Culpepper and Marriweather Circus was “pure circus Americana.”
“The circus is a perfect addition to our tradition of celebrating community, friends, and family fun,” said WWW board president Bill Donovan.
The theme of the parade was “Littleton Loves the Circus.” The parade featured Grand Marshal James F. Weber, president of Arapahoe Community College
To celebrate the end of World War II in August of 1945 the theme of the parade was "Littleton Remembers the '40s". In 1995, the parade had several additions focusing on the 50th anniversary of World War II. WWII-vintage planes did a fly-by over the parade. When U.S. soldiers returned to Hawaii from the Pacific in WWII, they were welcomed home by parades of Pa'u riders. This year dancers from Halau Hula Pluanani'ohelohelo, Colorado's own traditional hula school, rode in the parade to recreate that welcome.
More than 200 artists and crafts people displayed their wares at the WWW Arts and Crafts Festival, held on parade day.
The Lion’s Club kicked off the festivities with their 45th annual barbeque which included 900 pounds of beef and 22 gallons of secret-recipe sauce.
A "Peek Preview" tour of Littleton's still-developing Hudson Gardens was held on the first Sunday.
The WWW Horse and Carriage Show offered a variety of activities including two new events; the Stick-Horse Competition for the kids and a presentation by Rocky Mountain Shire Hitch. After 43 years it was felt the Old Timers Luncheon needed a bit of a change, so it was moved to Arapahoe Community College hoping to attract a larger crowd. The event was sponsored by the Littleton Independent.
WWW Board President Jerry Healey announced to Littleton City Council that WWW had chosen the Grand Parade theme, "Littleton Embraces the Future", to focus on the upcoming millennium. He highlighted several of the Board's goals regarding the millennium including the planning of a millennium celebration and raising money for a lasting legacy for the community.
Marilyn McKinnell, long time Littleton resident and supporter of Western Welcome Week, received the "Houstoun Waring Lifetime of Distinguished Service to the Community" award.
Hudson Gardens opened in June,1996. The Gardens hosted an open house during Western Welcome Week.
In September of 1997 the Littleton Millennium Committee, a subsidiary of Western Welcome Week, was initiated with the approval of the Littleton City Council.
The 1997 Western Welcome Week was dedicated to the memory of Houstoun Waring (1901-1997). The theme was "Roundup to the Millennium".
The first annual Bega/Littleton Mini Golf Tournament was held during WWW and the proceeds were given to the Millennium Committee to help fund the millennium legacy. The Circo Garcia circus came to WWW.
Western Welcome Week celebrated its 70th anniversary. The Millennium Committee announced that they planned to build a Clock Tower as a gift to the Littleton Community.
Instead of the circus this year, the anniversary was celebrated with the Bill Hames Carnival. The theme remained “Roundup to the Millennium.”
Fundraisers were held by the Littleton Millennium Committee to raise money for the Millennium New Year's Eve celebration "Tennies & Bubbles". It was a family party given for the community.
Littleton, Colorado was designated as a Millennium Community. Kelli Narde, Assistant to the City Manager and a member of the Littleton Millennium Committee, submitted the paper work and historical information to the committee in Washington, D.C. who made this selection.
The grand parade received a large addition--the Express Clydesdale Hitch and the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.
WWW received national recognition as a Library of Congress Local Legacy. The Local Legacies project was a part of the Library of Congress Bicentennial (1800-2000) program. The project documented distinctive examples of a community's cultural heritage in each of the nation's 50 states, congressional districts, trusts and territories.
WWW celebrated the year 2000 with a salute to the Regional Transportation District for bringing light rail to Littleton.
The WWW Millennium Legacy Clock Tower was dedicated in October and given to the City of Littleton as a gift to the community.
The WWW Board opened the year feeling the impact of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States. Nationally, people's thoughts were on the many acts of heroism that came out of that tragedy. This year's theme reflected the WWW Board's focus on linking the WWW theme to current events in Littleton and around the nation.
The theme of the 2002 Grand Parade, "Littleton Honors it's Hometown Heroes", reminded everyone that there are many kinds of heroes in Littleton. The goal was to thank and honor the many volunteers who made WWW possible each year.
Dick and Kathy Valore of Valore Hardware were honored as Grand Marshals of Western Welcome Week. As part of the 75th Anniversary Celebration, the Western Welcome Week Board looked for an individual or business that had been in the Littleton community for 75 years or more and they selected Valore Hardware. This year's theme, "Homecoming", paid homage to 75 years of celebrating Littleton's unique community spirit, heritage and unity.
Mary Bradford, long-time Littleton resident and supporter of Western Welcome Week received the "Houstoun Waring Lifetime of Distinguished Service to the Community" award.
Two events this year modeled after events from the past were the WWW "Old Fashioned Cake Contest & Auction" and the "Kids Games of Old." Both were held at Arapahoe Community College in conjunction with the 24th annual Family Pancake Breakfast.
New Events this year were the Kiss-n-Catch Coed Softball Tournament and the Grand Prix Skateboard Contest. Both were sponsored by South Suburban Parks and Recreation and were held at Cornerstone Park.
A 25-member delegation from Bega celebrated Western Welcome Week in Littleton this year.
The 76th annual Western Welcome Week was an eleven-day celebration from August 12-22. The parade theme was "Youth - Littleton's Future". This year marked WWW as now one of the largest, annual community festivals in the metropolitan Denver area.
The WWW board chose as grand marshal Stan G. Bush for his dedication to youth and innovative ideas in utilizing youth in search and rescue techniques. As founder of the Arapahoe Rescue Patrol in 1957, Bush exemplified the theme "Youth - Littleton's Future".
Also in keeping with the theme, the Arapahoe High School Dixie Dawg Jazz Ensemble was featured on the stage prior to the fireworks at the Family Night Concert & Fireworks event.
Some new events added to the celebration were Littleton WWW Live Trivia Challenge, Moonlight Golf, Rockabilly Live Music Night and the Centennial Plaza Pig Roast and Luau presented by the Toad Tavern, Aspen Grove's Film Festival Under the Stars, The Littleton Chorale's performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Friends and the Community Musical Concert Performance presented by First Presbyterian Church of Littleton.
The 77th annual Western Welcome Week was a celebration with a parade theme of "Embrace the Spirit of Learning".
The grand marshal was Dr. Tim Westerberg, Superintendent of Littleton Public Schools. Westerberg brought his special guest Deborah McVeigh of The Village for Early Childhood Education.
The parade theme for the 78th WWW celebration was "Embracing Volunteers".
In keeping with the theme, the grand marshal was Sonya Ellingboe of the Littleton Independent and the special guest was John Smart from Littleton Sertoma, honored for his many years of volunteering.
The 79th annual Western Welcome Week was eleven days full of fun for the whole family. The parade theme for this year was "Fun for Generations”
The grand marshal was the John Romano Family (Romano's Restaurant).
A new event was brought into WWW by the Littleton Sunrise Rotary; the “Alferd Packer Cannibal Run” a 5K/10k race/walk along the Platte River passing the grave site of Alfred Packer in the Littleton Cemetery.
2008 marked the 80th Anniversary of Western Welcome Week. The theme was again “Fun for Generations!”
The grand marshal was Susan Thornton from the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative.
The WWW board created a memorial event to honor long-time Western Welcome Week supporter and past president Bruce Wolf with the Bruce Wolf Stick Horse Stampede, an event that he began as part of the annual horse and pony show. With his passing the Horse & Pony Show was discontinued.
The 81st annual Western Welcome Week theme was “Encourage Green: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.”
The grand marshal was Bobbi Sheffield of South Metro Land Conservancy whose mission is to value, protect and preserve open space.
The Littleton Elks started the Rod and Custom Car Show. Local merchants Janelle Sullivan of Hot Pots and Stephan Poullier of JaJa Bistro started fundraising events for Western Welcome Week, giving WWW part of the proceeds from the day.
The theme of the 82nd annual Western Welcome Week was “Honoring our Heritage.” The event became a twelve-day celebration (adding to the usual 11 days). The grand marshal was Rebecca Kast of the Historic Littleton Inc.
The 83rd annual Western Welcome Week theme was “Family on Parade.”
The grand marshals were brother and sister Terry McElhaney and Jeannie McElhaney Pershin, Littleton natives and owners of Romancing the Bean coffee shop.
The theme of the 84th annual Western Welcome Week was “Fun & Fit.” As grand marshals the WWW board honored the Buck Recreation Center.
The 85th annual Western Welcome Week theme was “Spirit of the West,” honoring our western heritage.
The grand marshal was Joan Facchinello, long-time volunteer and supporter of Western Welcome Week. She was honored with The Houstoun Waring Life-time Achievement award.
A western welcome was given to our friends from Littleton’s Sister City in Bega, Australia.
Two new events were added to the WWW celebration this year: the Littleton Criterium (a bicycle race) and Little Jam outdoor concert.
The theme for the 86rd annual Western Welcome Week was “Giddy Up!” The grand marshal was Dr. Charlie Vail of Littleton Equine Medical Center.
The theme for the 87th annual Western Welcome Week was “Birthday Bash!” The grand marshal was Maurice “Stringy” Ervin, one of Littleton High School's greatest athletes and an outstanding swimming coach at Littleton High School. Ervin was inducted in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
|Western Welcome Week parade, 2016. Photo by Cathy Weaver.|
The theme for the 88th annual Western Welcome Week was “Salute to Educators” The grand marshal was Hannah Sturdivant along with several others.
The theme for the 89th annual Western Welcome Week was “Thank you...Military. Police. Fire.” The grand marshals were retired Navy SEAL Jesse Clay; Littleton Police officer Brent Kieffer and his retired K-9 partner Sabor; and Littleton Fire Rescue firefighter Tiffany Longmire.
The theme for the 90th annual Western Welcome Week was “Community & Friendship”. The grand marshals were Dick Lautenbach and Bruce Annabel (Curly Annabel's son; Curly Annabel worked with Houstoun Waring, editor of the Littleton Independent, to establish a "sister city" relationship between Littleton and Bega, Australia).
The theme for the 91st annual Western Welcome Week was “The Tradition Continues” The grand marshal was Bradford Auto Body owner, Mickey Kempf.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the community, the 92nd Grand Parade was cancelled. Several other regular Western Welcome Week events, such as the pancake breakfast and rubber duck race, were held in a revised or scaled back form.
"Together Again" was the theme of the 93rd annual Western Welcome Week, August 13-22, celebrating the return of a full schedule of Western Welcome Week activities and community events.
"Kick Up Your Heels" was the theme of the 94th annual Western Welcome Week, August 12-21. Chris Ibsen, store manager of O'Toole's Garden Centers – Littleton was honored as the 2022 Grand Marshal. Chris was recognized for his long-time support of Western Welcome Week and for being a "cheerful plant guru and supportive fixture in the community."
Interview with Cindy Hathaway, Executive Director of Western Welcome Week, 2015.
Littleton Independent. Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888- .
Littleton Independent. The Story of Littleton, Denver's Best Suburb, Golden Jubilee Number, July 22, 1938. Littleton: Littleton Independent Publishers, 1938.
Littleton Independent. Sixtieth Anniversary Edition, 1888-1948. Littleton: Littleton Independent Publishers, 1948.
Littleton Museum. Photographic Archives.
____. Vertical File: "Western Welcome Week".
Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum, unless otherwise noted; to order copies, contact the Museum at 303-795-3950.
Compiled by Pat Massengill, Phyllis Larison and Amelia Martinez
Updated August 2022 by Phyllis Larison