Territory Days returns for Memorial Day weekend | Arts & Entertainment

Old Colorado City was once the stuff of a John Wayne movie.

Tucked between what is now Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, the tiny town was then known as Colorado City, and it was rife with gambling dens, brothels and saloons. Indian encampments dotted the landscape, cowboys trotted around on their steeds and Laura Bell McDaniel was a madam with street cred.

Founded in 1859, Colorado City operated as the territorial capital and center for wealth in Colorado for a short time due to the gold pouring out of Cripple Creek. This was the first stop for miners on their way down the mountain, where they blew their newly acquired wealth on hedonistic pastimes.

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And we celebrate its rich history every year (minus the last two) with Territory Days, when the free Memorial Day weekend festival spreads down Colorado Avenue, between 23rd and 27th streets.

“This is a celebration of the original territorial capital of Colorado, and everything that went along with it,” said Jim Wear, Pro Promotions president and Territory Days organizer.

You can still see part of the history today, if you stroll through Bancroft Park in the heart of Old Colorado City. The old Garvin cabin, built by Dr. Charles Garvin in 1859, operated as the territorial capital building, until government types from Washington, D.C., came for a visit. They eyeballed the rudimentary cabin before heading up the road to Denver, where folks there showed off a more grandiose building, and told the D.C. group they’d give it up to become the state capital.

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Some years later, in 1917, Colorado City’s history came to an end, when it was annexed by Colorado Springs.

This year’s event is particularly important to Wear, as it’s the first festival since 2019 that hasn’t been canceled due to the pandemic.

“Two years of cancellations is almost like starting over,” Wear said. “We’ve got a full schedule of bands, a full complement of vendors, features and entertainment. We’re looking forward to having what will look like a traditional, regular Territory Days.”

Attendees can expect all the music, homemade craft vendors, festival food and beer garden adventures from yesteryear. Slight changes include more space for spectators in Bancroft Park due to renovations over the last three years, and an expanded kids zone.

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Parking could be a struggle. Visitors are encouraged to use the free shuttle running from Coronado High School throughout the weekend. Or ride your bike or a bike from PikeRide, an electric bike share. The nonprofit will offer free bike valet for bike users, and if you ride a Pike-Ride to its bike valet tent, your ride will be comped upon your arrival.

Wear loves the festival for its volumes of free entertainment on three stages.

“It’s not like most of your music festivals, which are hundreds of dollars for a ticket,” he said. “If you can get yourself down there, you don’t have to spend a dime. There is no other festival in this area that delivers the number and types of vendors and bands that Territory Days does.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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