St. Patrick’s Day Parade leaving Westside
The St. Patrick's Day Parade - a 23-year tradition in Old Colorado City - will move downtown, starting this year.
John O'Donnell, who founded and organizes the annual event with his wife Carol, said there is room for a bigger parade there; in addition, he has received strong sponsorships from downtown businesses.
Noting that he and Carol have “struggled with this decision over the past five years,” he said they finally decided “it was time for a change.” Staging on Colorado Avenue was especially a “disaster,” as he put it, with entries spread down side streets waiting their turns. “The way the downtown is laid out makes it so much easier and safer to put on an event like that.”
At the same time, he said, “I'll miss the friendliness of everyone on the Westside. Of course, every year there were one or two people who taxed your patience, but everyone was friendly. The Westside is a blue-collar neighborhood, and that's one thing I'm going to miss.”
He added that downtown is “just a few blocks east,” and that all the Westside community groups “will still be invited to participate.”
The parade, which the O'Donnells traditionally set on the nearest Saturday to St. Patrick's Day, has grown in recent years to include more than 100 entries, taking at least two hours to pass between 27th and 17th streets along West Colorado Avenue. According to unofficial estimates, 20,000 to 30,000 people have attended the festivities in years when the weather was clear.
The downtown event will be Saturday, March 17 along Tejon Street between St. Vrain and Vermijo. Also moving to Tejon will be the pre-parade children's fun run and 5K race that used to be held on Colorado Avenue, O'Donnell said.
The news of the parade's departure was met with disappointment by several Westside people contacted by the Westside Pioneer.
“Oh no, that's horrible,” said Cecie Weldon, manager of the 1st Stop (formerly Farm Crest) store. “That was our busiest day of the year.”
Not only would employees happily do business with parade-goers coming into the store, one of them would dress up in a cow costume to add to the entertainment, 50-cent hotdogs would be hawked along the sidewalk and (last year) 1,500 pieces of Cowtail caramels were given away to children.
“They're taking away all the traditions from the Westside,” Weldon said. “Not only the parade, but concerts on the street. Give me a break. It pulls in business for all of us.”
“I'm sorry to see any kind of event leave Old Colorado City,” said Nancy Stovall, board member and CEO of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group. While not a lot of parade-goers shopped in the stores, the event “brought a lot of people to Old Colorado City,” she observed. “They got to see what the area was like, and hopefully they came back.”
Barb Walker and Steve Wiley of Thunder & Buttons also expressed displeasure about the loss. “It was one of our better single days of the year,” Wiley said. “We'd have people coming in from about 10 to 5 in the afternoon.”
“Businesses look forward to parade days to boost the bottom line,” Walker said. “It's important to bring people to Old Colorado City. It reminds them that we have a historic district with businesses.”
Charlie Cagaio, who did the Jefferson Starship concert on Colorado Avenue last year, used to have two businesses in Old Town. He closed his retail shop about a year ago and plans to move his Old Town Pizza to the downtown City Auditorium where he now has the concession. Learning about the St. Patrick's Day parade move sped up his relocation, he said.
Kristine Van Wert, a member of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) who has championed residents when they've been impacted by large events, said she too was disappointed . “I have problems with events when they become too long, like Territory Days, but not the St. Patrick's Day Parade,” Van Wert said. “I always have a house full of people who come over just to watch it. Now I'm wondering what I'm going to do with them.”
Westside Pioneer article