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The world might be in the midst of a pandemic, but the Board of the Buena Vista Heritage Museums (BVHM) is betting that we all still need a little entertainment to help during these trying times.

In a completely proper socially-distanced format, the BVHM has begun hosting a late-summer series of musical events at the Turner Farm. The historic farm located at 829 West Main St. in Buena Vista is the site of concerts from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. every Friday evening.

The schedule began running Aug. 14, and there are five concerts still remaining in the series:

Aug. 28      Bill Gray and Bill Kelly

Sept. 4       Wayne Hancock and Randy and Carole Barnes

Sept. 11      Tim Burt

Sept. 18     Kevin Cardinal

Sept. 25     Brian Bishop

“We’re doing them for two reasons, as fundraisers and we want to remind the community that Buena Vista Heritage Museums are still here,” said BVHM President Victor Kuklin. “In this current environment, funding is critical to the survival of the Heritage Museums. It’s nice [to do this] for the community – nice to give them something that is socially distanced and complies with all the county health requirements.

Admission is by donation and concert attendance is capped at 150, a size easily accommodated by the sprawling rustic space. Guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs and a picnic dinner. (No dogs or alcohol)

Turner Apple Farm. Image courtesy of BVHM

Kuklin explains that the BVHB annual budget is a little over $100,000 a year – plus any restoration work on its three properties. Those include; Turner Farm, the Buena Vista Rail Station at the corner of U.S. 24 and Main St., and the Buena Vista Heritage Museum in the historic courthouse building that dominates East Main St. He is frank about the help that the BVHB needs after being shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic known as COVID-19.

“We’ve taken a huge hit — a significant amount of that budget income comes from door admissions at the museum. We [normally] host a lot of weddings, and have multiple fundraisers,” explained Kuklin, who said that to comply with directives, the board had canceled all the scheduled spring events. “The biggest fundraiser is normally the May annual meeting, a food, silent auction, and historic entertainment event that history aficionados look forward to.”

As the situation regarding the pandemic has stabilized, he explained that the board’s event committee decided to create some events that met guidelines. For instance, in the historic courthouse, while the normal capacity is 130, they have calculated that they can now do small weddings of 30-40 people. The best space however is Turner Farm, where space can easily accommodate 150.

He explained that the preservation of historic buildings takes dedication – and funding. The only endowment the 501(c)(3) nonprofit has was set up in the 1980s and it is restricted to funding for the maintenance of the elevator installed at that time. “We’ve learned the elevator is now obsolete and needs a lot of work.”

The non-profit began the year encouraged by a $2,200 match grant from the Chaffee County Community Foundation to buy 150 new chairs for the courthouse event area. But then the pandemic hit and the match amount is still to come in. “I’m hoping by the end of the year we can go ahead and purchase the chairs… it’s more than $4,000. In a normal year we’d already have had them purchased,” said Kuklin.

The upcoming events at the Turner Farm are all music concerts.

“The first one on the 4th of July was two historic speakers– but the rest are just concerts,” said Kuklin, who pointed out that the July 4 event at Turner Farm including historic speaker enactments, but absolutely no political connotation whatsoever. He clarified that after complying with the initial public health order, the BVHM events committee met and began to focus on how to conduct safe activities that could fund the organization’s survival.

Like so many entities open to the public, the BVHM moved to shift how it operated, doing things like being open by reservation only, requiring masks, scrubbing down surfaces, and removing hands-on exhibits. While it did a modified Railfest in July, it generated only a tiny fraction of the proceeds made the year before, which is what prompted it to immediately start planning alternate events.

“We have lots of room for people to spread out at the events we’ve had so far and these upcoming events. We’ve raised a few dollars … so the non-profit corporation can continue to exist. It does bring people to the Turner Farm. It’s amazing how many people drive by and look and don’t realize what it is.

As hard as it is to manage a budget impacted by COVID-19 now, Kaklin expresses hope for the future. “We see that with the tourists flooding Chaffee County when this settles down, things will be booming. In the meantime, we have to try and keep the organization going.”

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