It’s not every day that pack burros and square-dancers come together, with a soundtrack provided by the Colorado National Guard’s 101st Army Band. But that was the scene outside the state Capitol this morning as dozens of folks took part in a ceremony celebrating the 140th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood.
It's Colorado Day!
Locals and tourists and four-legged critters and music all mixed together for a scene that felt like a bit of a metaphor for Dan Barnett, a Denver resident who moved from Minnesota to Colorado in the 1970s.
“Well it’s really a melting pot of America,” he said of Colorado. “It’s not just that it’s a tourist area anymore, it’s a place where people have moved from other areas and have come here because they find that there’s so much. It offers so much to everybody.”
Admission to all 42 state parks was free Monday. Many museums around the state were providing free entry, including History Colorado in Denver.
The celebration at the Capitol included a color guard, a canon salute and the ringing of a replica Liberty Bell. And, yes, there were appearances by burros – which are the state’s summer heritage sport animals – and the Colorado State Square Dance Association.
“It’s exciting,” Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne said before speaking at the ceremony. “Not only is it Colorado Day, it’s our 140th Colorado Day. So it’s a really important milestone for Colorado.”
President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation in 1876 making Colorado the 38th state in the union. It's named after the Colorado River and was nicknamed the Centennial State because it achieved statehood the same year as the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.
Lynne said the Centennial State brand is something for which Coloradans take pride.
“I think they think about the spirit of independence,” she said. “I know one of the things I think about is it was the second state to give women the right to vote.”
That’s just one cool fact about Colorado. Here’s more:
- The road to Mount Evans is the highest paved road in North America.
- The suspension bridge over the Royal Gorge is the highest in the country.
- Colfax Avenue is the longest continuous street in America.
- The first stegosaurus ever found was in Grand Junction.
But other things come to mind when people think about Colorado. Liz Thompson moved here from Texas with her husband a few years ago.
“They think of hippies, yoga, mountains, skiing and all that stuff,” she said.
Hippies and yoga – but not marijuana?
“I was trying to keep it clean,” she said with a laugh.
There are a lot of folks like Thompson moving to Colorado these days, making it one of the fastest-growing states in the country.
But Paul Marcely, 27, of south Denver, is a fifth-generation Coloradan. He was sporting a Broncos shirt and holding a state flag Monday. He said he’s seen Colorado – and especially Denver – grow a lot over the last couple of decades. “Other than traffic I’d say it’s all good,” he said.
“I mean now there’s like lunch hour traffic. The city’s getting bigger, but at the same time that’s helping everybody out. I don’t have a problem with anyone moving here. It’s a beautiful place – you’ve just got to share it sometimes," he said. “The blue sky is something you don’t see anywhere else really, just how pure blue it is. The mountains really from anywhere are gorgeous. You have to share that.”