People came to Steam Pump Ranch on Friday and Saturday, just as they used to come for shelter, provisions and fresh horses.

This time, an estimated 1,200 stopped by to celebrate Oro Valley's 35th birthday, to enjoy a piece of one of seven sheet cakes, and to get a glimpse of the community's roots. Along the way, they heard song, cowboy poetry and history, watched a farrier shoe a horse and a point maker chip rock, tossed a rope and walked among the ranch's tall trees and old buildings.

A birthday is "a good time to reflect on the past, where you've been, and where you're going," Mayor Paul Loomis told an invited crowd Friday night. "Sustaining historical and cultural resources is a priority for Oro Valley." Steam Pump Ranch "symbolizes one of our greatest traditions" in the West, that of being friendly and helpful toward others, the mayor said.

Oro Valley special projects coordinator Scott Nelson took Friday night guests on tours of the Pusch House and the Procter / Leiber House. The town has worked to stabilize the buildings while funds are assembled for restoration. Proceeds from Friday night's activities, priced at $35 per ticket, benefited the Oro Valley Historical Society's Steam Pump Ranch Restoration Fund.

"We have a good start today and tomorrow for this special place, so let's celebrate," said Pat Spoerl of the Oro Valley Historical Society.

"The ranch is still extremely fragile, and there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done," Loomis said. He lauded the contributions of Nelson, James Gardner and others on the town staff to prepare the site for the weekend's events, and "to allow a glimpse of the ranch. It would not be possible without their efforts."

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is asking for $1 million to help with Steam Pump Ranch preservation. Ron Barber, representing the District 8 Democrat, said the funds would be directed through the National Park Service and its Save America's Treasures program.

"This site represents the birth of our community, and progress since the 25th birthday," Councilwoman Paula Abbott said. She hopes that, in 50 years, people would see Oro Valley "had the vision and the foresight to preserve the things that are important."

Councilman Al Kunisch recalled the formation of an ad hoc land conservation committee that focused on three parcels – Steam Pump Ranch, the Hohokam village site in Rancho Vistoso, and the Kelly Ranch – for preservation.

"Grass roots do work," Kunisch said. "When you get active, you can make things happen."

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