Archive for the ‘Annual events’ Category

Writing Lost Fort Collins has been a load of fun. In fact, it’s been an obsession. But lately,  just about every part of my life has changed. My work is drying up, my family is transitioning, and I’m ready for some change.

So, I’m moving on. To Bismarck, North Dakota, of all places.

But before I go, let me say this: It is an honor to be read, and especially to have others participate in my enthusiasm. Many of you told stories, asked questions, sent photos, or offered up ideas. Lately, you’re not even talking to me anymore, but to each other.  I love that.  Many of you contributed history of  Fort Collins that otherwise had never been captured.

I’m prouder of Lost Fort Collins than almost anything else I’ve ever done. Thanks for being part of it.


P.S. If you want to stay in touch, feel free to friend me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/catmcc) or write cat at lostfortcollins.com

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That’s right, I said CHRISTMAS. Colored lights, Stars, Christmas trees, and Santa Claus. In the 1950s, the whole town celebrated Christmas unapologetically. And Ruth B. Dermody took pictures to prove it. Click through to see holiday details. Is that a nativity in front of the courthouse?

City Hall. It doesn't look much different now.

College Avenue. Even without holiday lights, downtown was brighter with neon signs.

Our unloved mid-century courthouse. 1957-1999


All photos by Ruth B. Dermody.

Thanks to Jim Burrill for letting me use them. Jim has lots more family photos in and around Fort Collins at his blog http://lapoudre.multiply.com/journal

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Hey Fort Collins, what if this year we did Backyfest instead of  Brewfest?

Regional tobacco growers and hookah bars could set up booths downtown where they hand out samples of private blends like Rocky Mountain Air-cured, Mile-high Burley, and the nationally popular, Snowshredder’s Shisha.

The growers could use the event to promote indie tobacco farms–a chance to stand out from impersonal corporate operators. It’ll be a feel-good summer shindig, with special awards for those who use enviro-friendly farming methods and treat labor like family.

Of course, we’ll check IDs and, as always, encourage everybody to smoke responsibly.

photo Francis Bourgouin

photo Francis Bourgouin

(Lost Fort Collins is getting ready to vacation for a few weeks.  So I’m dragging in some of my writing from years past. This one was from a private  2007 blog. But you know, there really was a time when CSU and local farmers experimented with growing tobacco. We might have had a successful Backyfest, if only the local crop hadn’t tasted so awful.)

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Fort Collins adds one or two festivals to its calendar every year. Music, warm beer, sticky food.

But for beauty and grace, none match the May Fete at CSU in the 1920s–an annual display of “pristine femininity.” 


 “From the shrubbery, the fairies stole forth…Pan and his dancing nymphs, the four winds, moonbeams, and Neptune’s mermaids floated across the waves.”  

These next 3 photos all merit a click through to see larger views:








After hours of genteel dancing, “Chanticleer sent forth his cry and the fairies were banished by the coming of the Dawn.” –Rocky Mountain Collegian

3 Dianas with Horsetooth

3 Dianas with Horsetooth

All photos 1920s, used by permission:  University Historic Photograph Collection, http://lib.colostate.edu/archives/historic_photos.html, Colorado State University, Archives and Special Collections

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No matter what the calendar says, Winter isn’t over in Fort Collins until the vultures return to their pines at 920 W. Mountain. 

The first of them arrived today (Tuesday).  Soon,  50 or more will follow.  

Welcome home, guys.

Happy Spring everybody.


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“See the man in the mountain?” this old farm boy asks me.  I am at a party at his childhood home and I don’t know anybody.  So I stand outside looking at Long’s Peak, and he comes up and says that. “With his arms outstretched. Do you see?”

I can kind of see, maybe in that inverted pyramid patch of snow just beneath the top of the mountain.  But not really.  It’s a man like the man in the moon who doesn’t look like a man at all, to me.

“We used to watch the arms, and that’s how we knew how much irrigation water we had left for the year,” the farmer says. “The arms get shorter, and the water runs out.”

The Big Thompson Project created a system dams and diversions in the late 1940s. It brings water under the divide and averages our rainfall and snowpack.  So if there is a man in Long’s Peak, he’s defunct.

But still I can’t help but check for him every time I look West.

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The National Western Stock Show in Denver is a 100-year-old trade show for ranchers. With Rodeos, livestock judging, tractors, and such, it’s like a big state fair, but without the carnival or baked goods.

The press releases and tour guides can tell you all about it. But here are a few things they don’t highlight so much:

Freaks: The two-headed calf
In the Coliseum, skip the big rodeo/Wild West show/whatever, and go to the Paddock. You’ll find a row of kid-oriented displays. Our own Colorado State Vet School has a table of preserved animal parts, including the two-headed calf.

It’s a great way to show the budding veterinarian in your family that animal husbandry is more than watery-eyed puppies and Bryer horses.


As an added bonus, the brains are still in tact. You’ll have to go see it.

Hoaxes: The crowd goes wild?
As long as you’re at the Coliseum, stick around for one of those big shows. Sometimes, after a particularly exciting horse trick or famous singer you never heard of, the crowd explodes. Flashes go off all over and the screaming!

But look closer…nobody around you is screaming or taking pictures. And don’t all those people know flash pictures don’t work from way up in the stands?

Look even closer and you’ll see the camera flashes are a lighting effect.  And maybe the roaring crowd noise is piped in as well.

HiTech Wonder: The Televac 86000
The organ grinders and piano-playing chickens are gone now. But the Televac 86000 endures after 40 years on the fair circuit.

Feed it your signature and mysterious computer processes involving dozens of lights and dials divine things about you even you didn’t know.


It’s not a popular attraction, but  certainly the oldest along the sales halls. And that makes it worth noticing one more time before it disappears.

Ghosts: The Live Stock Exchange
This is what I really wanted to show you. Get past all the shows, hucksters, displays, cages, and work your way back under the railroad tracks to the historic stock yards. They’re outside to the west of the National Western Complex.  You’ll see the Live Stock Exchange Building:


Virtually unchanged since 1916, the Live Stock Exchange Building faces the railroad tracks, not a street.  All its business came by rail in the old days, just like the cattle for the Stock Show (that’s why they auction cattle by the “car load.”)

It’s a dream for historic building fans–no remuddles, no perky tour guide, no long lines, and an unlocked side door. Go right in.  And even with all those thousands of people at the stock show, you’ll be about the only one in there.


Side entry hall



I won’t show you everything. But make sure you look in the bathrooms. They’re not for public use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t open the door and peek in on the marble walls and tile floors. And make sure you get up to the second floor to see the old exchange board.

You could spend an hour in this building and the cool 60s building next door (go upstairs to the Hall of Champions). And then lose yourself for another hour in the old stock yards or in the nearly hidden bar behind the Stock Exchange.

They’re largely lost behind the hype of the modern event, but these stockyards, train tracks, and buildings are why the Stock Show is here.


Acres and acres of splintery livestock pens


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