Community celebrates Park City's mining heritage

Published: Monday, Sept. 3 2012 10:51 p.m. MDT

A group of kids run the lane just ahead thousands of golf balls as Park City celebrates their mining heritage Monday, Sept. 3, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PARK CITY — A smattering of fall foliage on the mountain peaks set a colorful backdrop as residents and visitors filled the streets Monday to take in the annual Miners Day parade, children's games and miner competitions.

The Labor Day parade was made up almost entirely of Park City participants, announcer Rich Fine told the crowd as they lined Main Street and Park Avenue. The event kicked off almost 45 minutes late, which is normal for "Park City Standard Time," Fine joked to the unhurried spectators. About 50 groups marched in the parade.

A group of more than 100 children, teachers and parents lead off the parade with a cry of "stand together against bullying." The community-wide coalition formed last year to raise awareness about bullying.

The Park City Rotary Club, which helps sponsor and organize Miners Day each year, is part of the coalition.

Tania Knauer is a parent and one of the founding members of the group. She said Monday's parade appearance was a debut of sorts.

"This was kind of our showcase day," she said. "This was the day for us to come out and show everybody, 'This is what we're doing.'"

Knauer attended a Salt Lake City showing of the film "Bully" last year, which inspired her to team up with community leaders in Park City to adopt an anti-bullying initiative.

The group has been raising funds to sponsor anti-bullying activities for children. Young members of the group will be integral in planning community efforts, she said.

"Bullying is not a school problem. It's a community-wide problem," Knauer said. "But the people who are going to help us solve it are the kids."

The group claimed the prize for best youth entry in the parade.

Twelve-year-old Emily Fine said her favorite parade entry was the anti-bullying group. Emily watched the parade alongside her father as he narrated the event. She said her family attends Miners Day every year, and part of the tradition is her father's parade commentary.

"It was really fun to actually be with him while he's doing all this," she said.

Other groups included the recently reorganized Park City High School marching band, which took the grand prize, and Park City Mountain Resort's snow-making machine, which won in the business category.

Candidates for Summit County Council and other political offices, area school groups and a collection of 32 British automobiles were among the crowd's favorites.

Monday's competition lineup included an assortment of races. The morning kicked off with the Running of the Balls, an event unique to Park City.

Community members had sponsored about 6,000 golf balls, which were sent rolling down Main Street. Proceeds support the Rotary Club's grant program, and the top 25 winners claimed prizes ranging from ear buds for their mp3 players to passes to the Canyons Resort and the Alpine Slide.

In the city park, neighbors cheered each other on at the Kid Games, as children — and later some adults — competed in foot races, human wheelbarrow races and sack races.

While the morning's events were focused on Park City's natives, the afternoon's "mucking and drilling" contest attracted miners from around Utah and across state lines, all vying for an ever-growing cash prize. Spectators were hard pressed to find a spot to sit or stand at the packed event that was set up in a parking lot across from Park City High School.

Rich Martinez, the city's designated "Ol' Miner," is the head of a six-generation mining family and provided expert commentary for the event.

Martinez helped organize some of the first competitions about 45 years ago, back when he was newly married and the cash prize was only $35. Winners at Monday's event walked away with $500 for first place, $400 for second place and $300 for third place in each event.

Martinez's grandson, "little Richie" Martinez, competed in the drilling contest.

The eight men competing in the mucking competition tested their speed as they worked to fill the mucker, a small tractor scoop and cart built to run on the mine's rail system.

Payson resident and longtime Miners Day competitor Remigio "Reggie" Portillo claimed the top prize, filling the mucker in 50.08 seconds. Portillo was followed by Chris Lamb of Sandy in second place and Larry Simpson of Heber City in third place.

Portillo said he and his family have made Miners Day an annual tradition for more than a decade. He was won 11 past Miners Day competitions, which he humbly accredited to luck and hard work while his family teased that the secret lies in his signature white cowboy hat.

He called Miners Day a family event.

"We make a day of it," Portillo said. "I don't come up here to win money, just to see how I do."

He and wife Jody celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary at Miners Day.

"We actually got married on Aug. 31 so that we could always celebrate our anniversary up here on Labor Day," Jody Portillo said. "It's just an exciting thing for us."

Reggie Portillo, who is 62, said he hopes to match this year's oldest competitor, 87-year-old Bernard Billings of Murray. Billings won last year's mucking competition and got a rousing cheer from the crowd for his 1-minute, 2.74-second finish.

In the drilling competition, miners were required to lug a 130-pound drill up to a prepared sandstone boulder and drill two channels about 2 feet deep into the target spots they had been assigned.

Lamb claimed first in the drilling event for his second win of the day, making his combined prize $900. Lamb finished his hole in 1:57.07. Second place went to Brian Still of Spanish Fork, who had a time of 2:00.86. Rick Thomas of Idaho Springs, Colo., claimed third place by a fraction of a second, logging a time of 2:04.09, ahead of Spencer Brown of Carlin, Nev., and his 2:04.25.

Still's elderly mother, Muriel Williams, gushed about her son and the drilling competition after the event.

"This is about six years that I've been coming," Williams said. "It's wonderful. I love every minute of it."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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