There's a great deal of uncertainty about the future of the Rocky Mountain News, which was put up for sale by its owner, E.W. Scripps, in December. As such, the timing of a planned demonstration in support of the paper -- it's scheduled to take place on Thursday, January 29, beginning at 6:30 p.m. -- seems risky. But Rocky reporter John Ensslin, a primary organizer of the event, emphasizes that outside occurrences won't derail things.
"We're doing it no matter what happens," Ensslin says. "If something good happens before then, it'll be a celebration. If something bad happens, it'll be a requiem. And if we're anywhere in between, it'll be a rally."
It'll be highly unusual, too, judging by the plans Ensslin shares.
"We're getting a group of 150 people together, and we'll be gathering at the [Denver] Press Club" -- at 1330 Glenarm Place -- "at 6. Each of the 150 people will be wearing a placard we've designed that bears one of the years of the Rocky's existence, along with an 'I Want My Rocky' button." (The latter is a reference to IWantMyRocky.com, a website created by employees at the paper after the sale announcement.) "We'll head to the Denver Newspaper Agency" -- at 101 W. Colfax -- "in small groups, single file, and form a ring around the building."
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This is hardly the event's only theatrical element. While covering the Democratic National Convention, Ensslin got to know a number of local history buffs who called themselves Recreate 1908 in a cheeky nod to the protest group Re-create 68. (As you'll recall, 1908 marked the only previous time the Democratic Party held its convention in Denver.) These reenactors attended assorted DNC events in period garb -- and a number of them have agreed to do so again as part of the Rocky rally.
One person will be designated "Mr. 1859" -- the year the Rocky debuted -- and Ensslin hopes he'll bear a resemblance to William Byers, the paper's founder. He expects others to come costumed as, for example, a newsboy of the period and the sorts of characters associated with Damon Runyon, who worked at the Rocky before going on to fame as an iconic author. Upon the group's arrival at the DNA, Mr. 1859 will light his candle, then use it to fire up the wick of the designated 1860 representative, and so on and so on until the present day.
At this point, Ensslin says he's got commitments from about half the total number of participants he needs to represent the 150 years of the Rocky's life, more or less evenly split between employees at the tabloid and just plain folks, and he's confident that he'll meet or exceed the targeted total. (If more than 150 people want to take part, that's fine by him.) He predicts that the presentation will last about half an hour, and he promises that "there'll be no speechifying. It'll be just a silent, dignified, elegant way to express our concern, affection and support for the paper."
People interested in joining in can contact Ensslin at an appropriate e-mail address -- Damon_Runyon@hotmail.com -- or visit IWantMyRocky.com. Today, meanwhile, is Ensslin's day off, but he has an important mission. "I need to go price candles," he says.