Territory Days crowd good with rain, new alignment
Rain and cool weather reduced the crowds for the 29th annual Territory Days, but an estimated 80,000 or more people still
flocked to the three-day event in Old Colorado City over Memorial Day weekend.
“Saturday was a phenomenal day. Had the weather held (Sunday and Monday), it would have been one of the best attended Territory Days ever,” said Lynda Dunne, whose Colorado Main Events company organizes the annual festival for the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group.
In good-weather years, up to 140,000 people have been counted at the event. “As it was,” she said, “everyone was in good spirits. People know (weather) is the nature of the beast.”
Territory Days is the major fund-raiser every year for OCCA (the group gets advance money from sponsorships and booth rentals plus a share of sales during the event). President Nancy Stovall said the final numbers aren't in yet, but she believes merchants and vendors had “a pretty good weekend. Anytime you have bad weather, it keeps some of the crowds away.”
Dunne was impressed by how many people came despite the weather, as well as the pleasure they derived from being there. Even on Monday afternoon, with the event winding down, a drizzle falling from the sky and temperatures in the 50s, she observed thousands of people still on hand, checking out the booths and businesses or watching Tiny Barge and the Big Chill in the Bancroft Park bandshell. And, when the weather led her to close the event that evening a half-hour earlier than scheduled, “I had to ask the public to get off the street,” Dunne said. “Usually when it's raining, I don't have to ask.”
She was also pleased with the increased physical size of this year's Territory Days. The OCCA decided to close off the 2300 block to compensate for lost space in the traditional 2400 to 2600 blocks as a result of the City Fire Department requiring a wider emergency lane. For the most part, the public as well as the vendors liked the size, Dunne said.
Supporting this point of view was Dave Hughes, who organized the first Territory Days in 1976 to help spark the Colorado Springs Centennial celebration and concurrent Old Colorado City redevelopment effort. Standing in the 2300 block Saturday while swarms of people strolled past the booths and food vendors, he said, “This is acceptable. I thought the city's rule on the fire lane would screw things up, but this is working out.”
With the extra block, Stovall said, “it didn't feel like there were as many people, but I think there were. They were just spread out a little bit more. The extra block gave more elbow room.”
The only major change Dunne anticipates for next year's event will be moving the Howell-Seven Falls Indian Dancers “back to the center of the event, where they belong.” This year, to provide an “anchor” for the 2300 block, she moved the dancers and their tipi from their customary 25th and Colorado Avenue location to the far eastern end of the 2300 block.
“It was an experiment that didn't work,” Dunne said. “They usually have huge crowds, and they just didn't this year.”
Also displaced in the new configuration was 3G's horse-drawn carriage service. For the three previous years, it had been able to pick up riders along 24th Street. This year 3G's was situated just east of the Indian dancers, on the other side of the barricades near 23rd Street and Colorado Avenue. “Considering the weather, it went well,” said 3G's owner Mike Solano, but added that he will need to “strategize” more ways to be successful next year.
One food vendor said she liked her new spot in the 2300 block. “It's just as good down there as up in the middle,” commented Alice Pankow, owner of Alice's Place. “It hasn't hurt us one little bit.”
The wider (20-foot) fire lane allowed a previously impossible activity at Territory Days: a little train that carried small children down the 2300 block, made a u-turn and then came back. It was one of several new or broadened features at this year's Territory Days.
Westside Pioneer article