From 31st to 33rd annual – festival gets ‘historically correct’
People looking at a Territory Days flyer last year would have seen the phrase: “1976-2007 - 31st Year!” Here are the words on the flyer for this year's May 24-26
festival: “1975-2008 - 33rd Year.”
So what happened? According to Territory Days organizer Lynda Dunne, she recently discovered that the original Territory Days was one year earlier. Over time, as memories faded and key people moved on, the standing belief was that the inaugural event occurred in April 1976, when state and local politicians joined Westsiders in a historically geared parade and festivities - in part to lobby for legislation giving tax incentives to property owners restoring aging commercial structures.
But in reality there had been a Territory Days the year before, in August 1975, Dunne found. “The only way to make it right is to make it right,” she said. “I want to be historically correct.”
Like the one in '76, the '75 event had been planned by the Old Colorado City merchants (who then went under the name, West Colorado Springs Commercial Club). Credit for the “territorial” idea goes to one-time Commercial Club leader Pearl “Scotty” Price, who was then in his 90s.
In a way, the story actually starts in Manitou Springs, according to Gene Brent, who in '75 had just opened a gun shop in Old Colorado City and revived the Commercial Club under the inspiration of Price, his landlord.
Brent was also involved then with the Rampart Range Sertoma Club, which had been putting on the annual Buffalo Barbeque in Manitou. “In 1975, we got into a spitting contest with the Manitou Springs City Council about using the park and closing off part of it for a parade,” Brent said. “So I talked our [the Commercial Club's] board of directors into moving the barbecue and parade into Old Colorado City.”
Hearing about this relocation, Price suggested tying the event to its new geography. Pointing out that Old Colorado City had been the territorial capital (albeit briefly in 1862), Priceto Brent, “Why don't you do something about it?”
The event gave just a hint of Territory Days to come. Only one side of Colorado Avenue was closed off for a little parade from 28th Street to Bancroft Park, and about 500 people attended the ensuing barbecue in the park, Brent said.
But the seed had been planted. Brent went to that year's Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Parade, inviting participants to sign up for an envisioned second Territory Days in 1976, with a full-street parade and the Sertomans again firing up the barbecue. Along the way, other plans came together, including publicizing the tax-incentive idea (prompted by the Commercial Club's efforts to revive Old Colorado City) and a tie-in with the city's 1976 Centennial Committee, headed by then-recently retired Army Colonel Dave Hughes.
Later becoming managing director of the Commercial Club (its only paid employee), Hughes would go on to lead and work with merchants and others on a myriad of efforts to upgrade Old Town and the Westside, including the Security & Maintenance District, the Organization of Westside Neighbors, the Old Colorado City Historical Society, the Bancroft cabin restoration… and yes, the continued growth of Territory Days.
Westside Pioneer article