Flashback: The original Colorado Day sounded pretty incredible

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Monday is Colorado Day. That means it’s time to shoot off artillery and party with donkeys – which is pretty much how Colorado has celebrated its birthday since 1907.

Read on to learn the history of the very first Colorado Day and the details of this year’s event.

Cavalry soldiers lead Army troops on a Colorado Day march through Denver in 1917, a decade after the celebration was inaugurated. (George L. Beam/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/GB-7577)

Cavalry soldiers lead Army troops on a Colorado Day march through Denver in 1917, a decade after the celebration was inaugurated. (George L. Beam/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/GB-7577)

Colorado Day officially got started in 1907.

President Ulysses Grant signed the state of Colorado into existence on Aug. 1, 1876, but nobody officially partied about it for a few decades.

A group called the Sons of Colorado (the original we’re-from-here crew) led the campaign for the holiday. In March 1907, the state legislature decided that it needed “a proper celebration by our people.”

An article in The Littleton Independent reported that the inaugural 1907 event was to be “one of the biggest and grandest celebrations … that has ever taken place in the state,” in a document preserved by the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.

As the newspaper noted, “SONS OF THE GLORIOUS WEST” were “HEADED TOWARD DENVER.” Governor Henry August Buchtel sent out 5,000 invitations, describing the inaugural event as sparing “no pains or expenses.

A newspaper article from July 1907 anticipated Colorado Day. (Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection)

A newspaper article from July 1907 anticipated Colorado Day. (Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection)

The newspaper expected some $7,000 would be spent on the party, which was to include a dozen illuminated floats on a lake and a parade complete with ox teams, Pony Express riders, fur trappers and wagon trains in numbers not seen since “the days of the real pioneer life.”

The “surviving pioneers held the position of honor in the parade,” as The Daily Journal of Telluride noted.

It’s pretty amazing that the Old West already was fading into memory.

The organizers also balanced out all that reminiscing with 300 automobiles and “sixteen male singers on electric float.”

Outside of Denver, though, the event was “not generally observed,” except by banks and county officers. Sadly, Colorado Day is no longer a bank holiday.

Coincidentally, Colorado a few months later became the first state to celebrate Columbus Day. The next year, the state would continue congratulating itself by covering the state capitol’s dome in gold.

Capitol Hill 1889

<strong>The Capitol as it was imagined in 1889, before it was built. (Library of Congress)</strong>

As for this year’s event:

The celebration starts Monday morning on the steps of the state Capitol, at 200 East Colfax Avenue.

The festivities starting at 9 a.m. will include:

  • Square dancing
  • A presentation of pack burros by the South Park National Heritage Area
  • The “Governor’s Own” Colorado Army National Guard 101st Army Band

The official ceremony, which starts at 11 a.m, will include:

  • The tolling of the Colorado Liberty Bell
  • Patriotic fanfare
  • The reading of the Presidential Proclamation from August 1, 1876
  • A Howitzer cannon salute

There also will be historical tours of the Capitol every half hour, starting at 1 p.m., to feature living history presentations and displays in the North Foyer.

So, all and all, not too different from that party back in 1907.

Reporter Andrew Kenney can be reached at akenney@denverite.com or twitter.com/andyknny.