Kevin Lindahl Welcomes Visitors To Santa Fe Trail Bicentennial Symposium

Description: Lindahl says, It will be an extraordinary experience to see the fort come to life again as it was nearly 200 years ago. Fort visitors will be transported back in time and will become a part of that world of 1843.

Published: 09/21/2021
Byline: Hart


by Ed Stafford

     A dozen miles east of La Junta, CO, stands an amazing replica of the most important structure established on the old Santa Fe Trail between Franklin, MO, and Santa Fe, NM.  Bent's Old Fort was established by the Bent Brothers and Ceran St. Vrain between 1833 and 1849 to serve as a service station and trading post for travelers and traders on that route.  It has been called the only "shopping center" on the 800-mile trail.

     This year 2021 marks the 200th anniversary of that historic trail, and the anniversary is being recognized with events at major locations along its route.  La Junta and Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site are the location of the Santa Fe Trail Association Symposium coming Sept. 22-26, 2021.

     "I want to welcome people to the symposium and to Southeastern Colorado in general," says Kevin Lindahl of Rocky Ford, President of the local Bent's Fort Chapter of the SFTA.  "This is a great opportunity for folks to get a good look at the slower pace of our Arkansas Valley area." 

    "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see how the fort has become again what it once was," says Lindahl.  When visitors step through the main gate, they walk into living history. "Through the years, fort personnel have stocked the reconstructed rooms of the fort as close as possible to the way they were. For the symposium, living historians (interpreters in clothing engaged in activities of the period) will be some of the best interpreters available."  This will be, says Lindahl, "the World Series of interpretation.  It will be an extraordinary experience to see the fort come to life again as it was nearly 200 years ago.  Fort visitors will be transported back in time and will become a part of that world of 1843."

     A symposium is a social gathering for the purpose of sharing information about a topic.  At the fort, this year, the topic is the year 1843, when many exciting events occurred.  Over the days, at La Junta's Otero College, a group of speakers thoroughly versed in a range of Santa Fe Trail subjects will deliver short talks, and well prepared guides will narrate bus tours exploring historic sites following Santa Fe Trail routes. "These speakers will be the best," Lindahl promises.  There will also be a fandango one evening at the fort.

     In addition to educational aspects, there will be banquets at the fort, and vendors will be on hand to sell materials and collectibles related to the bicentennial and symposium.

     All events are open to Bent's Fort Chapter and national/international SFTA members, and many are open to the general public.  Complete information about these is available at

     As president of the sponsoring Bent's Fort Chapter, Lindahl has been deeply involved in preparations for the event.  "I would like to thank the Symposium Committee who have been planning for five years," he says.  This has included selection of speakers, planning of tour routes, logistics of events, selecting and locating symposium paraphernalia, being part of so many meetings, and so much more.  

     Now, as the September dates approach, he says "two hotels in La Junta are filled, but there is plenty of lodging not filled." Towns of the area are eagerly awaiting the coming of expected crowds.  Asked about the possibility of COVID disrupting plans, Lindahl says, "We have been working with the county health department all along. There is no problem.  Everyone involved is exceeding the guidelines. Otero County and Southeastern Colorado have seen low percentage numbers.  There is far less risk than in metro areas."

     Kevin Lindahl has been a member of the Bent's Fort Chapter for 10 years, president for four years, and for many years has been Geocache Task Force Chairman for the national SFTA.  He is responsible for organizing and promoting  this game of burying or hiding tokens relating to Trail history in places connected to historic Trail sites. Using GPS coordinates, gamers can locate them and learn more about the Trail.  It is especially designed to encourage younger Trail enthusiasts.  There are now 73 GeoCaches along the length of the Trail.

     Kevin Lindahl is ideal to hold the reins of the long-awaited 2021 symposium.  A native Coloradan, his family came from Russia four generations ago and settled in Rocky Ford on the Santa Fe Trail.  Kevin knows southeastern Colorado well, having been a tour guide employed by the U.S. Forest Service Department of Agriculture to lead visitors through Picketwire Canyon and the National Grasslands.  He is working to assure the SFTA symposium's success.

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