More than 35 lecturers covering a broad spectrum of topics have captivated and informed audiences since the start of the Niwot Historical Society’s (NHS) Niwot Now and Then lecture series in 2011. Originally, Niwot’s history was the focus; delving into such topics as the historical role of the trains, Chief Niwot’s life, and the legend of Haystack Mountain. 

Gradually the lens of the lecture pulled out to explore more of Boulder County and the Front Range, examining archeological evidence of early Rocky Mountain habitation, baseball, and the American hobo.

This educational and entertaining lecture series will be the recipient of the tip jar program at Rock and Rails the evening of Thursday, Aug.15, at Whistlestop Park. Concert goers can drop a few coins and dollar bills in the jars at the entrance to Whistlestop Park, at an informational tent next to the railroad tracks, and at the beer, wine and margarita booth.

Former NHS president Laura Skaggs introduced the lecture series, and these days Kathy Koehler, NHS’s current president, is in charge of discovering new speakers.

With this fall marking the beginning of the series’ ninth season, and four captivating presentations already booked at the Left Hand Grange (195 2nd Avenue in Niwot), there’s a lot to look forward to. Each lecture evening begins with complimentary snacks and drinks at 6:30 p.m. and is followed by an expert show and tell session diving deep into a topic from bygone days.

Over the years, the series has developed a high caliber reputation and that means the four to five annual lectures are very well attended by 80 to 100 guests. Every other year, the NHS likes to include a workshop, often assisting participants with exploring their own family history and heritage.  

Koehler said, “We feel that, as a historical society, one of the things that we give back to the community is bringing people here for the lectures and giving people insight into what happened along the whole Front Range area from way back when.”

She explained that anything that happened here, probably also happened in other nearby areas and vice-versa, especially when it comes to farming and coal mining.

Koehler’s ideas for new lectures often result from a magazine or newspaper article. Then she tracks down an expert to see if they’d like to make a trip to Niwot. Next year’s lecture “History of Pies, International Pie Day” (presented by John Lehndorff on Feb. 26, 2020) is one of those subjects that came across her radar after reading a newspaper article.

In addition to learning about the all-American pastry, the three other highly anticipated lecture topics for the upcoming 2019/2020 series are: “Lithophones, Colorado Digs” (presented by Marilyn Martorano on Oct. 9), “The History of Banjos” (presented by Pete Wernick of Hot Rize on Oct. 23), “A Land Made from Water, and Left Hand Water Ditch” (presented by Bob Crifasi on April 23, 2020).

Tip jar donations will be used to offset the costs of purchasing and maintaining audio-visual equipment, serving coffee and tea at lectures, as well as offering support to the Left Hand Grange.

While the NHS historical collection in the Firehouse Museum adjacent to the Grange has a 99-year lease with the Left Hand Grange for a whopping $1, NHS board members feel a sense of responsibility to be more generous. This year the organization purchased new chairs and in prior years, cash donations have been given as a way to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship the two organizations enjoy.

“I’m just really proud,” Koehler said. “We’ve established a reputation and people look at what’s coming up because we’ve done a good enough job that people know there’s going to be a quality lecture.”

Niwot Historical Society members ($15 for one person and $25 for a family membership annually) receive free admission to the lecture series and nonmembers pay $5 at the door. For additional information on the Niwot Historical Society and upcoming lectures, visit www.NiwotHistoricalSociety.org.