“A Valued Citizen,” from the Hailey Interpretive Center Exhibit: “In 1903, William T. Riley, one of the founders of Hailey, deeded this property to the town for a racetrack for $50. Riley was born in Allegany County, New York, on March 31, 1843. Following the Civil War he came west. Arriving in Hailey in 1881, he helped plat the town site and secure its water supply. He also served at various times as Register of the U.S. Land Office, agent for the Wells Fargo Express Company, and County Treasurer. Old timers remember that Mr. Riley’s right arm was five inches shorter than the other from an injury he suffered in the Civil War.”
Hailey will celebrate the grand opening of the new Welcome Center at Werthheimer Park today, March 1, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the new building next to the rodeo arena. The event is titled Coming Together Through Time and will celebrate the rich history of Werthheimer Park, formerly known as the Hailey Rodeo Grounds.
Mayor Fritz Haemmerle will lead a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m.
Susanna Abbott and her son Joseph Riley Smith, two descendents of William Tecumseh Riley, will be present at the grand opening. Riley, one of the founders of Hailey, deeded the Werthheimer Park property to the city of Hailey in 1903 for $50.
“My great-grand father fought at Gettysburg and at six other battles during the Civil War,” Abbot said. “He also worked as a Pony Express agent in Utah where he founded the town of Kelton, which was later wiped out by a typhoid epidemic.”
Abbot said Riley first came to Hailey as a prospector and later decided to settle there.
“Family legend says he won the city of Hailey’s waterworks in a poker game,” Abbott said.
The Welcome Center building is next to the Hailey Rodeo Arena. Construction of the $322,000 building was funded through a $3.5 million bond passed by Hailey voters two years ago to redevelop the entire rodeo grounds.
The Welcome Center building boasts a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification marking it as environmentally friendly. The building will be home to the Hailey Chamber of Commerce as well as the Hailey Interpretive Center exhibits.
The exhibits, which are not yet completed, celebrate the 125-year history of Werthheimer Park, from the days of horse racing and rodeo, to ice hockey and skateboarding. The display includes a rodeo queen blue-sequined uniform from the Valley Country Girls riding team, videos of film clips from a 1950s Fourth of July rodeo and parade, and a pictures of the original Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club, including a photo tribute to longtime rodeo supporters Ted and Maxine Uhrig.
Bellevue resident Florence Blanchard supplied research for the exhibits. Kristen Poole of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts aided in creation of exhibit kiosks. Hailey resident Evelyn Phillips designed the three main historical panels.
“We set up a community group to create the exhibits,” said City Administrator Heather Dawson. “This first phase is only a small beginning. “
Dawson said grants, city funding and donor funding will all play a role in the eventual scope of the exhibits.
An anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $50,000 of further donations to expand the exhibit collection.
For more information or to make a donation, call Hailey City Hall at 788-4221.
Tony Evans: email@example.com