Price tag for next CHS Homecoming Parade: $5,000
Huge cost hike spurred by citywide liability concerns

       The Coronado High School Homecoming Parade hasn't changed much over the years, but the rules around it have.

Howbert Elementary students follow the "masquerade" theme during last year's Homecoming Parade.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       Once a simple event that cost less than $1,000 and could be organized in a few weeks by Student Council members, school staff, business donators and adult volunteers, the annual affair in Old Colorado City now faces a range of liability-spurred city regulations that will put the expense at about $5,000 and force the start of detailed planning before school lets out in May.
       The newest stipulations - drawn from a 2008 ordinance that was intended to provide consistent rules for all large public events - won't affect this year's parade Saturday, Sept. 26. That event was essentially “waivered” in by sympathetic city authorities when they discovered the school was unprepared for the new system. “This year was a trial to see how the ordinance worked,” said Police Sgt. Lonnie Spans-wick, the special events officer for the city. “Next year we're going to be more strict.”
       CHS Principal Susan Humphrey believes that the parade tradition - this is its 39th year - can be carried on in 2010. The parade provides a tie with the Westside community, as well as a way for students from Coronado's feeder schools (who also participate in the parade) to view the older kids as “role models,” she said. “They can see where they're going to end up, that it's ultimately their high school.”
       The money will be the tough part. The school's share in the past was so small it could be covered with part of the money Pepsi provides through its contract with the school district. Now, “we'll have to find a way to generate $5,000 a year,” Humphrey said.
       Fund-raising help could come from the alumni association and the PTA, she said, but added that such endeavors would need to occur by second semester this school year. “We can't wait till school starts,” she said. “There's barely time when we get back to school to get this organized. And there's no way to raise $5,000 from mid- August to the end of September.”

Johnson Heating and Plumbing owner Rick Johnson (left), his son/employee Ricky and employee Rick Daigle were placing "no parking" signs in the 2700 block of West Colorado Avenue Sept. 22 in advance of the Sept. 26 Coronado High Homecoming Parade (the signs have to be up at least 72 hours before the event). The volunteer contribution is part of what the elder Johnson has been doing for more than 25 years to help make the parade possible, but new city liability laws could limit his efforts in the future.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Another concern for Humphrey is how “sustainable” such financial support might be. “Whether it can be done annually is the question,” she said. But she'd hate to see the parade go away. “This is something very few high schools have any more. Once you lose that, and people forget the traditions, it's really hard to regenerate.”
       The advance requirements (which include the need for the application 90 days ahead of time, a detailed traffic plan and preparation for a Special Events Committee meeting) will also affect the Coronado Student Council members and the student body president, who've never had to deal with the parade so early. Current Student Body President Tyler Romero pointed to the logistical reality that the council and president who would oversee the parade for fall 2010 won't be elected until the end of the 2009-10 school year, leaving them little time to work on the issue before school closes for the summer. “I feel sorry for next year's president,” Romero summed up.
       The dollar impacts for Coronado will chiefly be for barricading and closing off streets (about $3,500) and paying off-duty police officers to man the barricades ($1,000 or more).
       In past years, the police donated part of their time to working the parade and/or reduced their actual numbers to “bare bones,” but such bonuses cannot be promised every time, according to Spanswick. For example, if an incident occurred indicating a need for more police in the future, then that could not be ignored, he pointed out.
       The barricades have been provided through a unique volunteer arrangement between two businesses that cannot continue in the same way, based on the liability concerns. The volunteer catalyst was and is Rick Johnson, owner of Johnson Heating and Plumbing. For about 25 years, the 1978 Coronado graduate has been paying his employees to place (and afterward remove) barricades and no-parking signs for the parade.
       How these necessary parade preparations will be provided in the future is unknown, but here's how it's been happening (and is again this year). The barricades are provided at no charge by the Midwest Barricade company because its manager, Steve Thune, is a friend of Johnson's. Johnson's crews pick up the barricades with a large truck, place them and then close the streets for the parade. After the parade, they reopen the streets, pick up the barricades and take them back to Midwest. Also, at least three days before the parade, Johnson's people put out about 100 no-parking-on-parade-day signs along the parade route and adjacent streets where there aren't parking meters.
       Ironically, Johnson, who believes in the importance of the parade, hardly ever gets to see it, because he and his crews follow behind it, picking up the barricades from side streets once they no longer need to be closed.
       The barricades were not that big a deal in the early years, both Johnson and Thune recalled. Only about 30 light units were needed, and Thune had no problem donating their use as long as Johnson returned them.
       Until this year, Midwest would also donate the hoods for the parking meters. This year Johnson is covering that cost, with the police putting them on.
       As Johnson tells it, putting out barricades initially was simple - only one was needed for each avenue side street between 29th and 24th streets. Nowadays, the 30 has grown to 300, because side-street barricades are required not only at the avenue but at each intersection for Cucharras Street and Pikes Peak Avenue along the parade route. And some Midwest employees (working on overtime because it's a Saturday), get involved as well.
       For Midwest, which has no ties to Coronado, the extent of the donation demand had become large enough in recent years that Midwest's owners took note of it. “My bosses finally told me, 'You've gotta stop giving this stuff away; we can't afford it,'” Thune said.
       He also admitted to feeling somewhat discouraged by what he deemed a lack of appreciation from the school, for himself as well as Johnson. He said that one year several Coronado students dropped by to give him a picture from the parade (“that was pretty nice”), but most of the time there hasn't even been a thank-you.
       Other individuals and entities also help out by donating the use of various vehicles (trucks and Corvettes) for the parade.
       The new city regulations stipulate that because of liability concerns, only workers who have been trained and certified can put up barricades in conjunction with closing or reopening streets. So at this point Johnson's employees - most of whom are plumbers - aren't qualified to do it.
       In fact, Johnson thought that was the situation this year, because the ordinance was already in effect. But the current Coronado Student Council, after realizing how much had to be done, “kind of begged me” (and the city special events committee said it was OK), so Johnson stepped up one more time.
       Not that he's looking for a way out of his long volunteer commitment. Far from it. Johnson said he is ready to get his employees certified for the barricade work, because continuing that parade contribution would save the school at least part of its increased expense.
       “Five thousand dollars is a lot of money for the school to raise,” he said. “It breaks my heart. I don't want this to be the last parade. This is a good feeling thing. Look at all these kids. It's their homecoming game. It's an exciting time for these guys. I'm honored to be part of it. Whatever I can do, I'll be there.”

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