T-Days: Behind the details
Lynda Dunne describes herself as a “detail freak,” and it's a good thing too.
As the contracted organizer of Territory Days, she faces plenty of granularity in putting together the annual three-day event that's attended by more than 100,000 people.
It's a reality she's gotten used to in 18 years of putting on the event for the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group - the last 14 as lead organizer through her company, Colorado Main Events.
Preparations for the festival begin in December and continue through the event itself over Memorial Day weekend. She described these efforts in an outline she wrote up, plus a follow-up interview with the Westside Pioneer.
Prominent among her early tasks, she said, is the city's special event permit form, which "begins with a 23-page packet that must be filled out and sent to the various city entities involved - police, fire, health, traffic, etc." The plus side of this process is that "it really does make you think about the various details early, which is certainly not a bad thing," Dunne said.
Another big early project is the vendor applications. The deadline is typically mid-March. A committee "juries the applications and makes the sometimes very tough decision on who is in and who is out," Dunne said. Itemized information on each vendor is kept on the computer. This is "very time consuming, but the time you take to do it right, in the beginning, sure pays off as we get closer to the event. It is nice to be able to push a button and get whatever detail you need. Like who hasn't mailed in their insurance? Or who still owes for electricity? Or what food vendor has not yet contacted the health department?"
In April, Dunne starts laying out the vendor stations along the festival's swath of Colorado Avenue between 23rd and 27th streets. This can become a Rubic's Cube of sorts, as she tries to factor in issues such as smoke, smells, electricity needs, type of space (e.g., tent or trailer) and potential conflict with Old Colorado City merchants (such as last year, when a barbecue vendor wound up nearly in front of an Old Town barbecue business).
Also during this time, Dunne is "creating ads, posters and flyers, planning street entertainment, jurying bands, getting sponsors, planning the Beer Garden and Margarita Cantina, and meeting with reenactors and other historical aspects," she said. There are also "a gazillion meetings" with groups such as the OCCA board, individual merchants, her volunteer committee, the shuttle bus company, sign-painters, City Police, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful (trash control), Mid-West Barricades, Pine Creek Art Gallery (which prepares the poster and helps on T-shirts) and Springs Utilities (traditionally led by an employee she knows only as "Charlie").
Setting up the event itself starts Thursday, two days before opening day. So this year, on May 22, Dunne will likely be seen on Colorado Avenue, placing duct tape with booth numbers down the center.
Colbrunn Court (just west of Bancroft Park) will close at noon Friday, May 23 to set up the Beer Garden. Around the same time, dumpsters will start to arrive and be moved onto side streets, with parking meters getting hooded as needed.
Later Friday, Utilities crews will begin the process of connecting electrical cords to the outlets at the tops of the light poles so that vendors will have power. "The organized confusion is definitely beginning," Dunne said. "It is very clear to the public at this point that something is happening."
"Saturday I arrive, with the police, at 4:30 a.m.," she said. "Invariably, there are vendors who have already arrived, waiting for the street to be closed at 5."
Work still to be done at this point will include setting up the trailers for Pepsi (one of the main sponsors) with help from high school volunteers and completing the garden and cantina preparations. And all the while, trucks will be arriving with ice and products, and a rental company will be erecting tents.
Thinking about all the activity she coordinates, she commented, "Sometimes I feel like the little old woman in a shoe."
Even during the event Dunne will often add to her responsibilities by washing tables at the garden and cantina. "That way, I can keep track of the bands [at nearby Bancroft Park] and see if people are getting drunk," she said. "If they are, I'll tell them so. But there rarely are problems."
At 8 a.m., two hours before the festival officially begins, Dunne will meet someone from the Fire Marshal's office and accompany him while he inspects the event. Issues being scrutinized include proper width for the emergency lane along the avenue and whether the food vendors meet regulations. From experience, she carries test strips to check water quality "because invariably some vendor forgets," she said.
For any other emergencies, she keeps her cell phone handy as well as a roll of duct tape on her belt. "I'm the duct tape queen," she laughed.
Meanwhile, the Gaming Parlor tent will be going up, and rides such as the mechanical bull, carousel, and the ponies are being set in place. The OCCA booth, which sells Territory Days souvenirs and T-shirts, must also be ready for festival business.
Through all of these gyrations, Dunne said she gets help from various volunteers, many of whom have been thanklessly pitching in for years, plus members of her own family. "It's not me, it's we," she summed up.
"It is now 9:30 and people are starting to arrive," she related in her outline, providing a composite memory of Territory Days past. "We don't open till 10 a.m. We must get all of the cars out of the area NOW. What, the electricity blew on block number 3? Where's Charlie? What do you mean he left? Well then, where is Ron? No, I am sorry, we do not allow dogs. Yes, we can, here is the city ordinance saying so. Oh no, I need to plug in my phone. It's only 11 a.m. Another Territory Days festival begins."
Westside Pioneer article