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Civic Center Park: Here's what it costs to party in the heart of Denver

Civic Center Park is ready for its close-up tonight, when the Civic Center Conservancy, Historic Denver Inc. and Denver Parks and Recreation will share a 2012 State Honor Award for their Civic Center work during Colorado Preservation's awards at History Colorado.

Although Civic Center has already hosted several big gatherings this spring, it's showing little wear from those events -- but like the park's grass, the debate over whether certain organizations should get a permit-fee exemption continues to grow.

Most of the debate focuses on 4/20, which is still considered a free-speech gathering even though recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado. And because it's considered free speech, there's no fee for an assembly permit and no damage deposit required. The only thing organizers were invoiced for was about $500 for electricity, according to Parks and Recreation spokesman Jeff Green.

Even so, organizers were still required to have insurance, an adequate number of porta-potties and security -- which came in handy when shots rang out about half an hour after the crowd lit up at 4:20 p.m. that day.

Other events that don't fall under the free-speech umbrella pay considerably more. According to Green, the rates depend on the number of people estimated to be attending the event, the number of days it will run, and whether or not alcohol will be served. The final numbers aren't in for the two-day Cinco de Mayo celebration this past weekend, but it had to get an event permit, which last year ran $5,812; the damage deposit was another $5,887. The two-day People's Fair paid the same amount in 2012.

Taste of Colorado, which started the Friday before Labor Day, racked up the biggest tab in 2012: $13,512 for an event permit, $11,775 for a damage deposit.

And even that's a relative bargain for a gathering at the heart of the city, in the award-winning Civic Center.

From the "Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "4/20 Shooting at Civic Center Park: What I saw and heard."