Bent’s Old Fort, the National Historic Site 6 miles east of La Junta on Colorado State Highway 196, is open every day, but certain occasions are marked with celebrations.

One of them is the Fourth of July, but a more elaborate one is the Traditional Holiday Celebration, scheduled for Friday-Saturday. The daytime celebration on Saturday has been produced for over 30 years, and the Candlelight Tour, about 20 years. Either experience is available for $5 admittance at the fort’s gate.

Chief Interpreter Jack Koch sets the stage: “The year is 1846. You are traveling along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. Your travel has been rough as winter weather has moved over the plains. Ahead is an adobe castle, the fur trading post of Bent, St. Vrain & Company. Its walls echo with the sound of work, human voice and merriment ... You hope for the chance to warm yourselves by a fire, replenish supplies, enjoy human company that may provide word of the war in Mexico ..."

Jon Frazier from Fowler is the fur trader with the black beard, but his fort identity may be French, as many of the fur traders were from Europe. The fort is a true melting pot of the frontier, with Native Americans, soldiers, French and Spanish traders, travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, adventurers from any place in the world accessible by boat and/or trail. Mexican laborers are likely to speak English as well as Spanish, but they will not come out of their roles when they speak with you, and each has a unique story.

Here are the Saturday activities:

Leon Davis and Jim Harsh will be showing the children how to make carrettas (little carts) from wood in the carpentry shop at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The breaking of the pinata is at 10 a.m. and this is no little-kid pinata breaking. The pinata moves back and forth on a cable and it takes a real swing to get it.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can take a wagon ride around the area, maybe with the famous “Doc” Jones and his team of draft horses.

At 1:30 p.m., Jake Koch and his partner will demonstrate black powder firearms and explain why a frontiersman saved his shot for the perfect moment and always tried to have a buddy along with another gun. Better yet, in later days at the fort, he might be lucky enough to have a sidearm and maybe even one that could fire several rounds.

Bob Kristhart, who spends his winter at the fort and his summers in Yellowstone, will tell the children about the Yule Log at 2:30 p.m., followed by a hunt through the woods to find it. Riding on the Yule Log brings luck for the whole year, so a few will get to ride the Yule Log into the fort for its christening and the music in the plaza.

The music in the plaza will pretty be a constant all day, with banjos and fiddles picking out frontier tunes. Those who get to go on a candlelight tour will dance to the music of Lex Rideout in the dining room at night.

Reservations are required for the candlelight tours, but not for the daytime activities. More than 50 volunteer interpreters always will speak with you in the first person, in the character they are portraying. Don’t ask them about anything you wouldn’t know about in 1846. You can ask things like: What brought you here to Bent’s Fort? Where did you come from? What do you do here? What’s the word from Mexico?

You also will be mingling with Boy Scout troops from Holcomb and Garden City, Kan.; as well as Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Pueblo and Golden.

Reservations are required for the Candlelight Tour, and only a few are still available.