More than 300 artists and craftsmen will exhibit their work at the Boulder City Hospital Foundation's 50th annual Art in the Park in the city's downtown this weekend, but Sara Denton can remember the first event in 1962, when that number was more like 20 to 25.
Asked if it's accurate that she was a founder of the annual arts event, Denton will admit to being "instrumental" that first year. But she's much of its reason for being, and the reason it's held in October.
"I wasn't a Pink Lady with the hospital, but I was friends with some of the ladies," Denton said. "They came to me and wanted to know if I would help them with an event here at our home. So, I did."
The auxiliary group had a goal of opening a new hospital for the little town by the dam.
"These Pink Ladies came up with the idea of having a little art show," she said. "We said we'd be happy to have the cocktail party here at our house the night before, and get some donations."
The art was to be exhibited outdoors, but there was one little problem with that. Western painter James Swinnerton was the guest artist, but he refused to let his paintings be shown outdoors. And so Denton and her husband, Ralph, cleaned out their living room so that Swinnerton's art could be displayed on their walls.
That first show, Denton said, was held in May.
"The weather was so iffy," she said. "I called the weather bureau - and that was back when you could talk to a person - and asked the very best weekend, weatherwise, in Clark County."
She stumped the weather bureau, but they said they'd look into it, and got back to her after a little research.
"So that's when we changed it to October, the next year," Denton said.
More modifications would come. The first year, Denton said, a clothesline was hung.
"Their entry fee was they had to hang one of their sketches on the clothesline, which we would sell for $1 or less," Denton said. "Some people still have some of the things that they bought off the clothesline from artists who have gotten quite big."
The first few years, they didn't sell space; the artists gave the hospital foundation a percentage of sales. Members of the community, she said, got together and built easels for displaying the works.
There was some difficulty getting artists to come from out of state for a one-day event, so it was expanded to two days. After about 10 years, craftspeople were permitted to show and sell their works as well. And eventually, the format was changed.
"Once they came up with the idea of selling the spaces, and having them bring their own tents and canopies, it really caught on big," Denton said. "And it started making more money because it took off."
This weekend's event, which is expected to draw 100,000 people, will include food and beverage vendors. Parking in the downtown area is free; there's an $8 fee for parking at the old Boulder City Airport, with free shuttles to the event.
Denton, whose husband died in July, said she doesn't get to the event much anymore, but she still supports it with an open house for her friends. There's an admission fee of sorts; everyone who attends has to purchase an item at the event, and bring it along.
"It's like show and tell," Denton said.
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@review journal.com or 702-383-0474.