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'A City in Blow Valley' debuts in Price

Brandon Wheeler and Dean Gundlach portray early settlers Abraham Powell and Caleb Rhodes.

Sun Advocate associate editor

The very first settlers of this area - ancient Native Americans - called the place "Blow Valley" because of all the wind and dust storms here.

Later, settlers of European descent had to contend with windborne storms of dried cow and horse manure. That was because 120 years ago, what passed for streets in ancient Price were open range. Fences were to keep livestock outside, not inside private property.

Those little-known bits of history are now public knowledge, at least for the public who attended the performances of "A City in Blow Valley" in the Price City Hall lobby over the weekend.

This was a readers' theatre production, meaning it had no set and no costumes for the actors, who read from scripts on music stands before an closely gathered small audience. And while the lobby of a city hall may see an odd choice of venue, consider that when eyes wandered from time to time, they fixed on the Fausett Mural on the walls. Many of the people and places in that big painting were part of the script.

The play was written by Martin Kelly, retired director of theatre at Valley City State University in Valley City, N. Dak. Kelly did the historical research and put it into dialogue.

John Behn directed the cast of 14 actors, some of whom played multiple roles of the historic figures.

The play was commissioned by the city as part of its ongoing centennial celebration.

The reading began with the story of the early Native Americans, then moved into the first white settlers. It detailed the coming of the railroad, the discovery of coal, establishment of businesses and churches, the the struggles of survival that eventually evolved into the city of Price today.

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