Questions Persist Regarding Future of Popular Festival
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
The long-awaited veteran’s rally aftermath didn’t amount to the controversy that many anticipated, but questions abound regarding the future of this festival in Cripple Creek.
Jim Wear, the president of ProPromotions, the sponsor of the popular Salute To American Veterans Rally and motorcycle ride, received about half of the amount of money he requested for an annual event that the city council canceled due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
According to Interim City Administrator Ray White, the council and Wear and event supporters held a fairly amicable discussion at last week’s regular meeting. “It was fairly positive,” said White.
Wear, according to White, outlined the support he has received from the city in the past and hoped to continue this event, which has occurred in August for close to 30 years.
The council by a 4-1 vote agreed to reimburse Wear for certain expenses he incurred this year in publishing a 2020 Veterans Rally program and for a plaque, done in honor of a marine, one of the slated highlights for the 2020 rally. Altogether, ProPromotions received reimbursement for approximately $5,700, which is far short of ProPromotions’ original request that exceeded the $20,000 level. Wear then sent an amended request of a little more than $12,000.
The 2020 event got canceled in late July due to the spike the region was experiencing in COVID cases.
This occurred following a previous meeting in which the council gave Wear the green light for the 2020 Salute to American Veterans Rally. In fact, the city was prepared to open their pocketbooks for nearly $30,000 for this year’s festival. But this approval was contingent on the event taking place. However, different views of this condition have developed in the last few months.
Wear and many of his supporters interpreted the council’s earlier decision as a definite green light unless state and county officials didn’t okay their mitigation plans. ProPromotions got the go-ahead of their event plans, with the main request dealing with splitting up the rally participants into separate areas, so they didn’t exceed the limits of the country’s variance for public gatherings, which can’t exceed 250 people.
But shortly after this verdict, the council, in an emergency meeting, opted to cancel the event altogether due to the huge spike in COVID cases. Unfortunately for ProPromotions, the timing of this year’s rally wasn’t good as several weeks prior to the event, the county got bombarded by a huge spike in COVID cases and was in danger of losing their variance from the stern state restrictions.
The council’s decision was made, despite several strong emotional appeals made by representatives of veteran-friendly organizations and pro-military groups. They cited the isolation and related problems that area veterans have encountered due to the coronavirus epidemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders.
They believed the 2020 event was extremely important to help boost morale among area veterans.
City leaders acknowledged these problems and lauded the veterans rally as a great event for the community. But they feared impacts of the growing pandemic crisis and were worried that if more outbreaks occurred in Cripple Creek due to the rally, then local casinos would get shut down again.
The closure of local casinos for nearly three months has clobbered the region economically.
Although the rally was cancelled, the annual motorcycle ride and MIA recognition tribute was held during the scheduled day of the rally. But no public ceremonies took place in conjunction with this ride, and no coronavirus infections occurred.
The big question: What is the future of the Salute to American Veterans Rally in Cripple Creek. The city is considering slicing funding for nearly all special events in 2021, although it will help foot the bill for support services and probably do some event marketing (see related story).This decision will probably occur within the next couple of weeks.
In other action, the Wildwood casino cleared another regulatory hurdle in its bid to convert the Gold King Mountain Inn into employee apartments and to start developing small bungalow/cabins for casino workers.
This council approval represented a further extension of action taken in an earlier meeting in September when this plan was presented by Wildwood owner Joe Canfora. This is part of the city’s bid to encourage more affordable housing projects.