Glenwood Caverns gave its first cave tour in May 1999, more than 82 years after the Fairy Caves closed to the public during World War I. The mountaintop Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is throwing a Party Like it’s 1999 celebration on Saturday, May 18, 2019.
A Dream Realized
Twenty years ago, Steve and Jeanne Beckley were putting the final touches on the substantial improvement projects that made it possible to open the Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves to the public for the first time in 82 years. They’d spent the previous months working with volunteers to grade and gravel a road to the cave entrance, clear debris that had collected for decades, rewire and install lighting, carve a new tunnel into the mountain and install two airtight doors to form an airlock that protects the temperature and humidity inside the cave. Their first tour was during Memorial Weekend in 1999, the realization of dream 18 years in the making.
A Look Back at Glenwood Caverns’ Beginnings
Steve Beckley, a petroleum engineer and graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, read about the Fairy Caves in 1982 in an out-of-print book about Colorado caves. He wrote to Pete Prebble, the owner at that time, and expressed his interest in visiting the closed cave for 11 years before he and then-girlfriend Jeanne were allowed in. It was such a remarkable experience that they spent the next six years persuading him to lease the property and then, after quitting their jobs in Denver and moving to Glenwood Springs with their newborn son, spent a year preparing to open.
“I remember telling Jeanne at the time that we’d give cave tours during the summer and then relax, ski and play the rest of the year,” Steve Beckley, who co-owns Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with his wife Jeanne, explains. “Well, that’s not exactly how it went. Jeanne knows ‘I have an idea’ is probably my favorite phrase and that I say it a lot.”
Glenwood Caverns Becomes America’s Only Mountain-top Theme Park
More than 33,000 people toured the caved in five months that year. The company had to close during the rest of the year due to the winding road that was impassible in the winter and spring months. Steve began working on a new transportation system to keep the tours open year-round; in 2003 the Iron Mountain Tramway opened, and the company changed its name to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Since then, it has grown to include thrill rides, family-friendly attractions, live music, shopping, dining and, as of this year, the new high-speed Glenwood Gondola that can transport 1,000 people per hour up and down the mountain.
“We never imagined that 20 years later that we’d be operating the only mountaintop theme park in America, with roller coasters and a giant swing and concerts under the stars,” co-owner Jeanne Beckley said. “It’s been such an incredible process. Our boys have grown up here, and the park has become this special place where families can have fun, learn about nature, experience this spectacular cave and create memories together.”
Premier Prince Tribute Band to Highlight 20th Anniversary Celebration
To celebrate this 20th anniversary, the Adventure Park is throwing a Party Like It’s 1999 celebration on Saturday, May 18, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Paizley Park, a costumed and choreographed Prince tribute act, will rock the stage from 7 – 9 p.m. The audience will fall under the purple spell of Phillip Lamar Jordan as Prince during this high-energy show featuring the music of Prince, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Sheila E. and more. Guests who wear purple to the event can get a free drink at the Lookout Grille, a purple Icee for kids and a special “Purple Rain” adult beverage. The Airi Photo Booth will be set up to the right of the stage with props to help guests create free souvenir photos to take home as well.
Learn About Spelunking and Formations in Cave Simulator
CaveSim, a crawl-through electronic cave simulator with 60 feet of passage to explore, will be at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s decorated with artful reproductions of real cave formations. Each formation is electronically sensed to count the number of times it gets hit by cavers. This information is saved in a central computer, and cavers can compare their scores and times.
Education was a primary goal of the Beckleys when they first opened the cave in 1999. According to Steve, “We were, and still are, so overwhelmed by the beauty of this world beneath our feet that we wanted to share it with as many people as possible while still protecting the natural resource. Teaching our guests about the history and geology of the area, the life forms within the cave and the importance of conservation has always been at the forefront of our business.”
Since that first tour, more than a million people have toured Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves. The park offers affordable field trips for thousands of students every year, providing the opportunity to share the science and experience of exploring to even more young people, many of whom might not have the chance to do so otherwise.
Event Admission Details
Regular admission rates apply for this event. A ride on the Glenwood Gondola costs $19 for adults and $14 for kids 3 to 12. The Gondola/Cave Tour combination is $32 for adults and $27 for kids. An inclusive Funday Pass is $58 for adults, $53 for kids, and includes the gondola ride, two walking cave tours and unlimited access to all rides. Annual Gondola and Thrill Pass holders can attend free. Those who have vouchers for the Locals’ Gondola Pass from earlier this year are encouraged to redeem them prior to this event, preferably on weekdays prior to 4:30 p.m.