Hundreds of people showed up August 15, 2009 at the blinking light in downtown Soda Springs to welcome the new Donner Summit Historical Society museum and visitors’ center into the world. Visitors enjoyed hot dogs, photographs, and conversation; perused the extensive collection of historical photographs; and witnesed the presentation of the first Summit Pioneer Awards. The awards were presented to Bill Klein (Heirloom November, '09), who pioneered Summit ski instruction and so helped popularize the sport; Johnny Ellis (Heirlooms April, '09, July, '09, and August, '09), who built the first rope tow on Donner Summit and so helped make skiing accessible; and Dennis Jones (Heirloom February, '09), who also helped develop Summit ski instruction. Bill; Johnny’s 91 year old widow, Evelyn Ellis; and Dennis’ niece, Starr Walton Hurley shared memories of the Summit and accepted the awards in front of the many celebrants.

Norm Sayler, is really at home in front of a microphone, was the M.C. He is the founding president of the historical society. He kept the crowd entertained with stories and a description of the beginning of the modern ski area on Donner Summit.

There were a number of important and/or well known people in attendance: Jennifer Montgomery, Placer County supervisor; John Olmsted, famous naturalist; Jack Duncan, author; Mark McLaughlin, author; Arthur Sommers, author; Hank Schwartz, who ran Northstar for many years; Jay Price, who ran Boreal for many years; Don Belden, who was Sugar Bowl’s mountain manager for years; and Pat Malberg, the Placer County district 5 western slope supervisor’s representative. A good time was had by all. You can see a YouTube clip of Bill Klein's presentation filmed by author Mark McLaughlin at You will need to cut and paste this.)

Pictured above top the crowd; then to the right from the top: Pat and Don Malberg; Sharon Ruffner, David Africa (DSHS board member) and Bob Ruffner; Summit Pioneer honoree Evelyn Ellis, her son, Norm Sayler (DSHS president/founder) and honoree Bill Klein;  John Olmsted and Margie Powell (DSHS board member and founder).  On the left side: Christina Oldenburg, Sue Busby and David Africa; and at bottom,  Lance Sayler and Ms Mercer;