Crowded sidewalks hint at record attendance for 2008 Territory Days

       Official counts of Territory Days crowds are impossible, but organizer Lynda Dunne believes a crowd record could have been set with this year's Memorial Day weekend street festival May 24-26 in Old Colorado City.
Territory Days scenes... Tim “Red” Matz (foreground) out-shoots Ralph Melfi to win the Fast Draw competition in Bancroft Park. 
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       She based her rationale on a kind of “sidewalk-bypass” principle. Typically during Territory Days, even when there are walls of people in the street, a person can get around the crush by scooting over to the sidewalk. But there were times that wasn't possible, particularly on Saturday or Sunday. “I had to use the alleys sometimes,” Dunne reported.
       Her unofficial crowd estimate was 120,000 to 130,000 people. Although rainless skies helped, she thinks that high gas prices may have kept more people in town over Memorial Day weekend this year. There seemed to be more families. “I saw a lot of strollers,” she said.
       As for the event as a whole, she described it as having gone “very smoothly.” A popular event Sunday was the second annual Fast Draw shoot-out (using blanks to burst balloons set to digital timers), won by Tim “Red” Matz; young girls were heard screaming for pop star Ryan Cabrera in the Bancroft Park bandshell Monday; and hundreds of people sought pretty stones in the Gold Prospectors of Colorado's panning area, played on kids' rides, watched the Indian dancing or joined in other activities. Territory Days scenes... A HawkQuest falcon
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       Featuring a range of shopping and entertainment opprtunities - some with a Western flair - the event is put on by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group, continuing a tradition going back to 1975. The OCCA obtains a special-use permit from the city to close off Colorado Avenue between 23rd and 27th streets for the three days. The idea is to attract people (and potential shoppers) in a nod to Colorado City's brief span as territorial capital of Colorado in 1862.
       With this year's crowds, “the merchants should be very happy,” said Dunne, who contracts her services with the OCCA. “Even if they did not have a lot of sales during the event, they got great exposure.”
       The OCCA itself receives a share of the income from Territory Days (from vendor booth rentals and certain product sales), which it uses during the rest of the year to sponsor smaller events and to market the historic shopping district as a whole.
       The '08 festival had no serious problems, and no arrests were made, Dunne said. A few people suffered from the heat the first two days, and were treated by medical crews. Other details, such as a police crowd estimate, numbers shuttling from Coronado High School or whether the record number of parking tickets (646 last year) was broken, will probably come out in a couple of weeks, after Dunne has had a wrap-up meeting with city officials, she said.
       Matz followed his son Nathan, last year's Fast Draw winner. “I had a lot of luck, and it was good fun,” he said.
       Two musically geared acts had misfortunes this year. Ancient Winds, a flute-playing performer from California, did not make it because leader Jose Cabezas' truck broke down. And the schedule for the contemporary dance groups next to the Margarita Cantina was curtailed by electrical power insufficiencies, Dunne said.

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