Jeanne Dewsnup is being honored as parade grand marshal, in recognition of 50 years of ownership of the Tru Vu Drive-In. The Tru Vu is a unique outdoor offering that can't be experienced in many other places across the country, let alone in-state.
The drive-in is one of only 385 such outdoor movie spots left in America, according to Dewsnup. There are only six total drive-in movie theaters still in business in all of Colorado.
Jeanne and her husband Stan owned and operatd theaters in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Nebraska and Colorado. They purchased the Egyptian Theatre and the Big Sky Drive-In on Crawford Avenue, then acquired the Tru Vu Drive-In a year later.
Jeanne describes Stan as a "real go-getter." She was working as a waitress in Salt Lake City when Stan came into the restaurant. She vividly recalls the safety pins holding his shirt together, but his lack of fashion didn't stop romance from blossoming.
Living in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the time, the Dewsnups saw the Delta theaters for sale in a cinema-centric publication and decided to check into it. The Tru Vu, opened in 1954, was the last property the Dewsnups officially purchased. She recalls just two prior owners of the drive-in.
"These theaters were for sale for a cheap, cheap, cheap price. We came over here for a weekend and here we are, right?" Jeanne quipped.
Now a historic landmark, the Tru Vu is the only remaining Delta drive-in. The Big Sky fell victim to financial hardships after area coal mines closed in the late 1980s, Dewsnup explained.
"We were just spinning our wheels, spinning our wheels, so we decided to put one drive-in down," she said. "We asked the customers which drive-in they would close down. They said that one. They said the restrooms were nicer over here. That was the deciding factor."
The price of admission ($8.50 for two features) is still the best deal in town.
The drive-in's capacity is around 200 vehicles, Dewsnup said. "We just get people from all over everywhere. Grand Junction. Fruita. Palisade, even Carbondale. When they come from that far away they make a night of it; get a motel and go to dinner, and stuff like that," Dewsnup said. "You'd be surprised of how many people have never been to a drive-in before."
She takes a moment in the projector room to explain how the technology has evolved over the years, from clunky, 35 millimeter films to digital hard drives. Change is inevitable. (She said the newest digital projector cost a total of $93,000.)
She quickly added, though, the concession stand, which serves up cinema classics like popcorn, soda and nachos, hasn't undergone many renovations since the beginning.
"This snack bar, every year we try to do something new, but actually the snack bar is like when we first bought it," she said.
The sea foam green and off-white color scheme, paired with the neon-red lettering, completes the drive-in's quintessential 1950s nostalgia, which may be part of the reason so many people travel there.
After her husband Stan passed away in 2005, Jeanne admitted she found solace in the business that has created happy memories for so many.
"I don't know what I would have done with myself after he died, if I didn't have this to go to," she said. "I know where I'm going to be from the middle of April to the middle of September."
Evenings off are a rarity, so at the end of each summer, she rewards herself with a trip to an exotic destination, like Africa or Central America. This year she is joining her sister and brother-in-law on a journey to Belize, a favorite getaway when Stan was still alive.
"Every year, I say this is going to be my last, but then comes spring and I'm ready to go again," she said.
She will be taking a few nights off during Deltarado Days, to entertain family members who don't want to miss the parade and the sight of Jeanne waving from the back seat of a classic Corvette.
"It's going to be like a family reunion," she said, with two sisters and their families traveling from Texas and Utah. Her daughter is unable to get away, but a grandson and his wife are planning to come from Denver.
The Deltarado Days parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, and will travel north from 9th to 2nd Street.