Amid hugs, laughter, tears and good cheer, the 50th anniversary of Ute Pass Elementary School was sweetened by nostalgia spiced with a return of that old school spirit.

There was an element of surprise, too, as some had no idea who would be there, or that scrapbooks would revive the memories.

Perhaps the most cherished moment was the presence of the school’s first principal, Ann Foster. For one former student, Foster evoked a precious childhood memory.

Overheard in the parking lot, as the man walked with Foster to her car, was this emotional gem: “I love you; you’ll always be my principal.”

Foster was heard to reply, “I love you, too.”

It was that kind of reunion the evening Aug. 10.

“Foster represents the head and shoulders of Ute Pass,” said Chris Briggs-Hale, who scheduled the event nearly a year in advance.

Back in the day before regulations became the norm, Martha Crabbs worked her magic in the school’s kitchen. “We made bread and crust for the pizza,” said Crabbs, who baked and cooked in the kitchen for 25 years.

The school in Chipita Park reflected a sense of community back then when all the parents knew each other, said Susie Matejcek, who taught music. “There is a lot of history here.”

Indeed, 1969 was a good year. “There was Woodstock, the moon landing and gas was 35 cents a gallon,” said Briggs-Hale, as a reminder of the good ol’ days.

The people enjoying the reunion reflected the ties that bind the residents. For instance, the mayor of Green Mountain Falls, Jane Newberry, was in second grade with Margaret Peterson, a town trustee. Peterson’s father, the late Walt Peterson, was also a trustee as well as a magistrate, manager of the swimming pool and janitor at Church in the Wildwood.

Peterson’s mother, Rita, stepped in more than a decade ago to rescue the Bronc Day festival when lack of enthusiasm could have spelled doom for the annual event.

Newberry’s daughter, Melissa Newberry, will be doing her student teaching this year under the direction of Beth Romano, who is retiring after this year.

Katie Gardner, whose father Malcolm Conn, served on the first school board, was a sixth-grade student at the school. Several years ago, the school returned to offering sixth-grade with the Mountain Academy of Arts and Science.

And for the past 25 years, Dani Hainds, the school secretary, has been the glue that holds everything together. She knows the parents, the kids, teachers, neighbors and greets visitors with a friendly smile, her presence a comforting sign that all is well at Ute Pass Elementary School.

“This school is still perfect,” Briggs-Hale said.

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