Fort Collins St. Paddy’s Day Parade Was Amazing and Sorely Missed
For a long, long time, my absolute favorite thing about St. Paddy's Day was the massive Lucky Joe's St. Patrick's Day Parade held in downtown Fort Collins. I actually used to announce it for a number of years, sitting on a huge flatbed trailer on College Ave. by Oak Street Plaza, with city dignitaries and parade judges to my left and right, while announcing each business and community group as their orange, white and green floats came on by.
Between announcements, I'd happily accept the bribes of green bagels thrown our way, or the little bottles of Irish whiskey that would secretly be passed to the judges behind the trailer. I was just the announcer, not a judge, so IF I accepted said bribes, I regret nothing. I didn't have a vote to sell, but they took care of me anyway.
It was a spectacle each and every year. You'd get downtown early to grab a spot. Watch the parade. By the time it was over, the bars and restaurants all throughout downtown Fort Collins would be packed with cheerful people, festive music and more green beer than you cared to drink but did.
It was the best thing in town all year. So many great memories.
Then suddenly in 2019, poof! It disappeared.
If you're thinking COVID... nope, this was 2019. Coronavirus wasn't even a word anyone of us knew yet.
The Fort Collins Downtown Business Association "retired" the event, just as they did to First Night Fort Collins, the long running family friendly New Year's Eve bash a handful of months prior. The parade was dusted more than a year before COVID was even a thing.
The events were eliminated not because they weren't well loved or attended, but due to rising costs of producing the parade, safety requirements, crowd control and traffic management issues.
In a January 2019 press release they sent out with notice of the cancellation and ultimate "retirement" of the event, they cited "Recent tragedies at parades and gatherings throughout the world have forced responsible event organizers to implement enhanced best-practice preventative measures, which in turn, naturally drives up the costs of producing a parade," the release said. "What was once a sleepy small town gathering has evolved into a complicated large-scale production."
To be fair, that last part is correct. It turned into outright debauchery over the years. Our fun, turns out, was the city's pain.
And while I get that, I do still miss it. I know many others do too.