Territory Days to get narrower, one block longer
Merchants extend event to 23rd Street to make up for newly required fire emergency lane

       Remember those Territory Days with vendors along the sides and the middle of Colorado Avenue and masses of people milling among them?
       A thing of the past.
       Based on a mandate from the Colorado Springs Fire Department, the 29th annual Territory Days over Memorial Day weekend this year must have a 20-foot-wide lane for emergency vehicles along the entire stretch of the closed-off avenue. Although the edict will allow people to walk in that area, it will mean the loss of about a third of the space previously available for vendors and activities, according to Lynda Dunne of Colorado Main Events, which organizes Territory Days for the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group.
       In response, with the OCCA's support, Dunne has obtained the necessary OKs from businesses and property owners in the 2300 block of Colorado Avenue to allow Territory Days to be extended another block to the east, she told the Westside Pioneer this week. Instead of 27th to 24th streets, as in the past, there will be vendors and other activities down to 23rd Street. “That's great news,” she enthused.
       Dunne said it's too early to estimate the net effect these changes will have on the event, which typically attracts well over 100,000 people during its three-day run. “I'm trying to make it so we can have an increase,” she told the OCCA board. “The good thing is that it will be a safer event. We've been lucky in the past.”
       One thing she knows for sure is that she has her work cut out for her. Of the roughly 200 vendors who typically rent booths for Territory Days, she estimated that at least a quarter - several of whom have been in the same spots for as long as 15 years - will have to be relocated. In addition to the obvious diplomacy involved in such moves, “each vendor's needs are different,” Dunne said. For example, she pointed out that vendors of the same products can't be side by side, nor can a smokey food vendor be put next to a clothing shop. Plus, various vendors have their own electrical hook-up needs. “I don't just draw a square and hope it works,” she observed.
       Dunne said she learned about the change at a meeting she'd set with the Fire Department a few weeks ago to discuss food vendors at Territory Days. Al-though the emergency-lane regulation has been on the books for a number of years, she said it never has been enforced at Territory Days until now.
       Speaking for the Fire Department, Deputy Fire Marshal Kris Cooper said the 20-foot regulation has been part of the Uniform Fire Code since at least 1991. But the Westside's Fire Station 5, which has traditionally handled the fire-safety aspects of Territory Days, had not required it; Station 5 instead had OK'd 12-foot lanes between the side and middle vendors on either side of the avenue.
       The change is due to the department's fire prevention office now being tasked for Territory Days, noted Cooper, who oversees city fire code enforcement.
       “We're always aware of our impact on an event,” he said. “We think about those things. But our priority is public safety.”
       He could not recall a serious safety incident in a past Territory Days event, but pointed to the devastating fire that wiped out three businesses in the 2400 block of Colo-rado Avenue two years ago. “That's an obvious example of how a fire can burn in those old buildings,” Cooper said, adding that the 20-foot width allows enough room for a fire truck to drive in and set up quickly if a fire breaks out.
       Dave Hughes, a longtime Westside leader who helped originate Territory Days in 1976 as a way of promoting Old Colorado City, said the action was an “ego” thing for the Fire Department's emergency people and offered the dour prediction that fewer people will attend the event as a result.
       Dunne, however, preferred to look on the bright side, thanking the Fire Department for allowing the emergency lane to “snake” up the avenue, instead of staying in a straight line down the middle or on one side of the avenue. Thus, the lane might be on the north side in one block and on the south side in the next. An exact layout is still being worked out, she said.
       Although Territory Days is by far the merchants' biggest event of the year - providing funds through booth rentals that help support other promotions - the OCCA board was calm about the news, asking questions and supporting Dunne's efforts. Two members who offered opinions said they were not opposed to the new alignment.
       In response to board questions, Dunne said the event could not be extended to 28th Street because of the gas station in that block; also, she said she will try to use the side streets back to the alley north and south of the avenue as much as possible to maximize space.
       “It's going to be different,” Dunne told the board of this year's Territory Days. “Keep your fingers crossed.”

Westside Pioneer article