Another ‘blow-out’ for T-Days
Wind gusts caused some mayhem, but the people kept coming to a May 28-30 Territory Days that appears to have matched its record crowds from the year before.
That means an average of more than 50,000 people a day - last year's police estimate - pouring into a four-block stretch of Old Colorado City to listen to music, to eat and drink, to check out vendors and stores, to put their kids on rides and generally to soak up the atmosphere of probably the biggest annual event in the Pikes Peak region.
One measure of numbers: In 2010, the two event drinking locations (the Beer Garden and the OK Corral) went through 125 kegs. This year, according to T-Days organizer Jim Wear, it was 128.
“The attendance was awesome,” he said. “We literally had to run people off Monday night [at the 6 p.m. closing time].”
Agreeing with him was Police Sgt. Lonnie Spanswick (who oversees special events for the city). He declined to offer an attendance estimate, but spoke his opinion: “I thought the crowds would be down this year with the wind, but they weren't. I think it was just as busy this year as last year.” He too mentioned people's reluctance to leave Monday night. “We had trouble clearing the streets. It was 7 o'clock before vendors could drive their cars in to load up their stuff.”
The musical headliner this year was Thompson Square, a Nashville, Tenn., band that scored a number-one country hit in the past year with the song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” It was quickly clear that the band had fans at the festival. As soon as the ropes were taken down for the preceding activity (the Fast Draw competition) in front of the Bancroft Park bandshell Sunday afternoon, at least 100 fans pressed up to the stage, waiting patiently nearly an hour for the famous musical group to appear.
A big hit for families was the new location for the Kids Zone - a festival area offering different children's rides or activities - which for the first time was set in the Old Town Plaza at 25th Street and Colorado Avenue. Last year, it was in a less prominent place; this year, families seemed to find it easier, and Wear said nearly all of the plaza's merchants told him afterwards that their businesses thrived as a result.
Another popular move was adding handicapped parking in a centralized area (the Pikes Peak National Bank lot). Previously, Wear said his employees had parked there, but this year he wanted to be sure no handicapped people got turned away, so he asked his workers to come earlier and find spaces or to get rides in.
But “the biggest measure of success,” the organizer said, “is that it was a safe event.” The only health/safety issues he'd heard of were a a girl who twisted her ankle and a couple of people who collapsed from the heat.
There was an unsolved case of vandalism Sunday night around 9 p.m., after most of the vendors had sealed up their tents for the night and gone home. According to Wear and Spanswick, somebody with a sharp knife - probably just walking by and feeling malicious - cut rips in the sides of about 10 vendor tents. However, there was no evidence of any burglary attempts.
Police did not report any other criminal activity during the three-day affair. The only potentially related arrest occurred three blocks away - a misdemeanor involving a juvenile with an open can of beer.
The biggest problem was the wind, which gusted off and on and was at its worst Monday morning, sending several vendor tents flying. Wear, a big-events veteran, said most of those people just hadn't put enough weight at their tent corners. “A one-gallon jug on each corner is not sufficient to keep a tent from blowing away,” he said. You need at least a cinder block or even a five-gallon bucket of concrete.”
One tent-losing vendor, who had some product ruined by the wind also, picked up and left Monday morning. Wear said he should have hung in there, like others who lost their tents or took them down to be on the safe side; “the afternoon was gorgeous.”
The festival is owned by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group, which uses income from it to market the shopping district around the area. The actual event income is not released to the public (and in any case this year's accounts are still not finalized), but when asked for a rough comparison, Wear said he was “pretty optimistic” that this year's “will be right up there with last year's.” That's true, he said, despite higher overhead, chiefly stemming from his decision to increase night security and to use more shuttle buses to ease the neighborhood parking crunch.
Talking about the popularity of Territory Days, Wear said it is “by far” the biggest event in the region. “There's nothing that compares with it outside of Denver.” The reason, he said, is the location. “Old Colorado City is just a cool place. It has neat merchants, historic buildings and a cool landscape - it's the whole ambience of Old Colorado City that's made Territory Days such a thing.”
The only festival-related number that seemed to be down from last year was parking tickets. After the 2010 event, Spanswick reported that 189 parking tickets were written in the neighborhood around Territory Days. This year, there were 55. Spanswick said he had no explanation for the drop, because he had assigned four motor officers to look for parking violations, the same as last year.
This was the 36th Territory Days. Initially it was a parade, commemorating Colorado City's colorful history, brief fling as territorial capital and resurgence as a popular shopping district in recent years.
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