As the New Year’s approached in 2000 it dawned on me that with the millennium and approach of the 21st Century it was going to be a special year. I called around to a number of friends and it seemed that there wasn’t much planned, some private parties, but nothing that could be considered at community gathering.
For many years, the Telluride Fire Department had hosted a “everyone come” New Year’s Party at the Quonset Hut next to the Old High School, but after the building had been torn down there was really no place for all of us to go.
Well, I had an idea.
What if we did a community New Year’s Party on Main Street in front of the San Miguel County Courthouse and the clock tower, sort of a Times Square concept.
So, I called Peggy Curran, the Town Manager at the time and ran the idea past her. She thought it was something she could support, so the party was on.
We did some advertising, a few news stories in the papers and an interview or two on the radio, KOTO. The word spread quickly.
It was a community New Year’s Party and it was FREE and OPEN TO EVERYONE. It was an opportunity TO COME TOGETHER as a community.
The kicker was that it wouldn’t even start until about 11:30 PM and would be over by 12:30 AM.
I believed that it would also be good for the partiers since:
- first, you’d have to be careful and not drink too much or you’d miss the party.
- second, the gathering was not about drinking and partying, it was about “COMING TOGETHER” as a community to welcome in the new millennium and say good-bye to the last one.
- third, with the Y2 scare going around, if the world was going to end, we might as well have a party and meet the future together.
- fourth, I’ve always thought it was good for the old system to leave the stuffy party you were at and hit the street in twenty degree weather for a while. It clears the head and just maybe it would give some people the opportunity to just head home instead of party too much and get into trouble.
I invited all of the San Miguel County elected officials to help with the “COUNTDOWN” and everyone showed up. Keith Carradine and his band which had played at the Opera House came out to lead the traditional “Ole Lang Syne”.
It was impossible to get a band, so we organized some of the local drummers to pound away.
IT WAS A GOOD OLD TIME AND NO ONE GOT HURT THAT I KNOW OF.
Year two was a different story. Peggy Curran didn’t like the idea of doing it again. She had heard that there had been trouble in Vail the previous year and said no.
I decided to appeal her decision to the CASE board and Town Council. Ultimately, we did it again, but this time we had some trouble. We had one bad boy who was really looking for trouble. I went down off the stage twice to try to get this young man to stop his antics, but when I failed, I called the cops.
Clearly, that was what Peggy had been waiting for. Although, I couldn’t see a cop in sight in any direction and couldn’t find one earlier to help move Big Bird’s truck which was parked directly in front of the stage, one call and three police cars arrived in about thirty seconds. The gathering came to a quick end.
The perpetrator of all of the trouble turned out to be a nineteen year old that was in town visiting. He had been arrested earlier in the evening by the local police, but had escaped from the police car. He had been filming the entire fiasco with a handheld video camera which when reviewed by the authorities proved to have lots of incriminating evidence on it, including the missing police and that there was only one problem person.
Year three was also memorable. Peggy and Amy Levek the Mayor joined forces in attempting to cancel the celebration. According to the rules, we had to have the town’s permission to close the street for the event and due to the past year’s problem, the insurance which I had been paying out of my pocket to the tune of $3,000 a year would now cost a lot more.
The Town called up the question which alleviated CASE from having to hear it. The meeting was a railroad deal, the problem was that Peggy and Amy didn’t have the votes they needed due to the fact that there was a split on council of three to three with Mark B. out of town. No problem, Peggy just had Mark B. on the phone which was a breach of the rules and specifically prohibited by our Town Charter for a councilperson to vote when not physically being present. To hell with the rules and the Charter, Mark B voted over the phone, so it was 4-3. The next problem was that a bunch of people, many of whom had lived here for a long time, including three former Mayors appeared at the meeting and said, “It’s our town and we’ll have the celebration with or without your permission.”
Well, have it we did--bigger and better than ever. It was both a revolution and a party and was self-organized by the community and demonstrated that Telluride is a community of people that care about one another and won’t allow it to become the political tool of politicians, bureaucrats, or self-serving manipulators.
For the record, I wasn’t there. The day of the party, I got a call from an old friend who happens to be a Judge and was told that there was a warrant that had been issued for my arrest for inciting a riot, having a party without a license, blocking traffic, standing on Main Street, and generally not going along with the rules of the Narrow Minded Club.
During the party the town Marshals went around asking everyone if they had seen me. People quickly figured it out and told them I wearing a costume as a disguise. There reportedly were numerous sightings—none of which panned out.
It was great and I didn’t have to buy insurance.
Within a few weeks the Town Manager and the Mayor cancelled their service contracts with the town and retired and neither have spoken to me since.
The fourth year, the town contacted me and asked, “Are we doing the New Year’s Celebration this year?” And, they helped put it on, and provided dumpsters and came up with the idea of having the Town’s insurance policy cover the event like it did for all the others. The drummers were back and the crowd was in high spirits.
2004 and 2005 were essentially handled the same way, except in ’05 we started a parade down Main Street with flags, drums, pots and pans that started at the Park. I must say, that marching down Main Street banging on drums is more fun than anyone should be able to have. Plus, it wasn’t part of the permit. We put the word out that we needed a Major Domo to lead the parade and sure enough as we gathered in from of the Town Park a fully dressed parade leader appeared wearing knee high boots, a red tailed coat and a huge top hat with chin strap. The guy was great. He got everyone organized and in line and we quickly rehearsed a drum beat—the whistle blew and we were off. Also, in 2005 the event was dedicated to Teddy Ebersol who had died in a plane crash a few months before, his parents, Dick Ebersol and Susan St. James are old friends in our community.
In 2006, the Town Council took over the celebration. They didn’t ask me or even call. They just put it on the calendar and did it. I was actually visiting Mars that year, so I can’t say how it went. The Watch called it “the best ever”, but I heard it had no heart and no drummers, just music from a can.
In 2007, the Town Council again hosted the event and again failed to call me or the other community organizers. So, we organized a parade again. We didn’t have a Major Domo, but we did have flags, drums and a lot of dancing. When we got to the stage, there was some confusion. I walked up onto the courthouse steps and wondered if they had another arrest warrant for me by the astonished look on the Marshals faces, but the security forces parted and I got to go up and give Andrea Benda, the Town Council Rep that was running the show a hug and New Year’s kiss. I didn’t get to yell into the microphone and since there were no drummers, or fire dancers, or Major Domo’s I hung out for a few moments and called it good after the Countdown.
The event was now approved, sanctioned and organized. It didn’t seem that the crowd was that big, or noisy. Will Power’s (Big Bird) pickup truck was no where to be seen and next year I think I’ll….