New St. Patty’s parade in Old Town?

       The original St. Patrick's Day Parade may be long gone from the Westside, but a homegrown version could arise in 2010.

People handing out candy were always popular during the St. Patrick's Day Parade when it was in Old Colorado City. The above scene played out as crowds lined the avenue's 2500 block during the 2005 parade - the second to last before organizers John and Carol O'Donnell moved it downtown in 2007.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group is seeking one or more sponsors to cover the main cost, estimated at $15,000, according to OCCA President Charles Irwin.
       “We're trying to do that - absolutely,” he said. “We've had so much feedback from our board, the merchants and the public that they want the parade back.”
       The most recent request came from Gary and Tonja Gross, who own the Badda Bing retail shop. Tonja had been so keen on the idea she was ready to cut through the bureaucracy herself, but after being stunned by the city special events officer's estimate of $15,000 - mainly to pay for street closures, off-duty police and barricades - she approached Irwin. “I just think it would be great to have our parade back,” she explained this week. “I'd love to see it back in Old Colorado City, where it all started in the first place. I don't see it being quite as big, but it could still be fun, with things like school bands and old cars. I'd like to start on some floats and get some businesses interested.”
       The annual event was a Westside tradition for a quarter-century before parade organizers John and Carol O'Donnell decided it had grown too big for Old Colorado City and moved it downtown in 2007.
       The OCCA's decision deadline can be no later than mid-December, Irwin pointed out, because the official St. Patrick's Day is March 17, and the city now requires a 90-day notice before an event requiring the closure of a major street.
       The downtown parade is scheduled Saturday, March 13.
       A tentative date has not yet been set for an Old Colorado City St. Pat's parade, although Irwin mused that both affairs could occur on the same day, perhaps with offset times so people could attend both. Even if the two events were at the same time, “we wouldn't mind,” he said. “I think there's enough support from the general public.”
       O'Donnell's downtown event, with about 100 entries, is similar in size to what he used to have in Old Colorado City. Crowds of up to 30,000 would line Colorado Avenue the length of the parade between 27th and 17th streets.
       Those kinds of numbers are what the OCCA likes. “Anything that brings people to Old Colorado City,” Irwin said. Regarding the sponsorship prospects, he conceded that the economy is down, but suggested that there might be a corporation that would be willing to pay for the naming rights - for example, the “XYZ Corporation Old Colorado City St. Patrick's Day Parade.”
       The 2007 relocation was met with some bitterness. Several Westside businesses that had supported the parade for years refused (and still do) to participate in the downtown event. One of these is Mill Hill Tavern, which typically had a horse-drawn wagon for its entry. The tavern founder, the late Jim Bloom Sr., was involved in starting the parade, which has legendary origins dating to the 1970s (even though the “official” first parade is listed as 1984). When asked this week about the new proposal, Bloom's son Jimmy said, “I think it's a great idea. The Bloom family will definitely be there, like we always have been.” He'd like to see it come back because without it, “I feel like part of our heritage has been stripped away.”
       O'Donnell himself was a little skeptical at the news. One thing he questioned was if the parades ran at the same time, whether there would be enough off-duty police officers to go around. He also wondered about the financial aspect. One of the reasons he had given for moving in 2007 was that he hadn't gotten enough support from Old Colorado City merchants. So on hearing they might back a new parade, he asked rhetorically, “Where were they two to three years ago?”

Westside Pioneer article