Despite informal boycott by some Westsiders
Downtown parade entries reach limit
When the St. Patrick's Day Parade rolls through downtown Colorado Springs for the first time Saturday, March 17, spectators will see a spectacle about the same
size as past years - despite an unofficial boycott by some former Westside entries.
John O'Donnell, who organizes the annual event with his wife Carol, said the number of entries is being capped at 100, which is the same as it was during the quarter century or so when the parade was a March highlight in Old Colorado City. “The response has been really, really good,” he said.
According to Carol O'Donnell, Westside groups that will be in again this year are West Middle School, Don Bates Insurance and the Old Colorado City Lions Club. Westside Boot and Shoe is “new this year,” she said, Sacred Heart Church has bought an ad in the program, and the Colorado Springs Cycling Club “is mostly Westsiders.”
The O'Donnells said they have heard from some past participants who are dismayed that the parade is leaving the Westside and have declined to pay to be in it anymore. “It's a personal thing,” John O'Donnell said. “I understand. I'm a Westsider, and that's OK.”
The O'Donnells had “anguished” over the relocation decision, he said in January. The main reason, they said, was safety - the staging area off 28th and Colorado had become too small for the size of the parade. Another plus, they are since finding, is monetary . According to John O'Donnell, the downtown is providing a “tad bit better financial base,” which will allow the effort to be “on budget” for the first time in about seven years.
Meanwhile, Old Colorado City and the Westside are bracing for the first time in many years without a St. Pat's celebration. Although the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants board has not actively opposed the move, informal interviews with various merchants have indicated a general sense of disappointment losing a major event and consequent exposure to a wider audience.
One of the former Westside parade entries is Checker Towing off Eighth Street, which has for roughly 20 years featured various antique tractors restored by owner Jim Willy. “We're not happy about it (the move downtown),” said his son, Mark Willy, who. works with his dad. “We're not going to be in it this year. The parade was part of the Westside, and it promoted the Westside. If they move it downtown, they can promote it themselves.”
Jim Keeney, a race car builder and owner of Wreckmasters on 14th Street, has “always had something in there [the parade],” but not this year. “I'd like to keep it on the Westside. I told O'Donnell that,” he said. “It's been a Westside deal forever. He wanted me to give him [an ad]. I'm not going to advertise in a downtown parade.”
Bloom's Mill Hill Tavern is another long-time parade participant (a horse-drawn carriage last year), dating back to when Jim Bloom Sr. helped Rogers Bar start it. Now, Jim Bloom Jr. owns Mill Hill, and he turned the O'Donnells down this year.
“They called and asked if I was ready, but when they said 'Tejon,' I said 'Whoa, I don't know about that,'” Bloom said. “Sure the crowds will be bigger than on the Westside, but it's just sad. For people born and raised on the Westside, that was kind of our day.”
No alternate events have been scheduled on the Westside in place of the parade, which will start down Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs March 17 at noon. However, a bar-hopping reveler will likely run across free corned beef and cabbage at certain taverns, and post-parade Irish music is slated at Thirsty's and Thunder & Buttons.
Westside Pioneer article