Don't point the gun at anyone you don't want to shoot," Jon Caldara advised the crowd assembled for the fifth annual Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Party hosted by the Independence Institute on Saturday. And with that, he sent the troops off to shoot clay pigeons — and the breeze — at the Kiowa Creek Sporting Club. But the real straight shooting was at the luncheon that followed, when the other vices — drinking and smoking cigars — were introduced along with several luminaries in the crowd, including Secretary of State Mike Coffman, state senator Lois Tochtrop (a Democrat!) and state senator Nancy Spence, who decried nannyist measures introduced at the legislature. "I was elected to be my constituents' representative, not their mother," she said.
The ATF's featured speaker was the Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore, who couldn't hit a clay pigeon but scored with the crowd when he advised, "We all have to make sure that she does not become president." Later, he asked who in the crowd was supporting which major Republican candidates — and got not a single supporter for John McCain, but also risked some wrath when he failed to even ask about Tom Tancredo.
"I'm not into Tancredo, even if I am in Colorado," Moore explained. But this was clearly Tancredo country: He was president of the Independence Institute before he moved into Congress and Caldara took over his bully pulpit at the think tank.
Where there's smoke, there's ire.
Fest at rest: Last year, the city had a surplus of festivals in honor of Juneteenth — the day of June 19, 1864, when word finally reached the slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free — almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Juneteenth commemorations moved from the South to the big cities in the North in the 1930s, and by the mid-'60s, the Juneteenth celebration in Five Points was the largest in the nation. "It was huge, bigger than Cinco de Mayo," says LaWanna Larson, director of Denver's Black American West Museum. "It celebrated what it meant for people to find out two years later that they had been freed."
The news about last year's Juneteenth was slow to arrive in Denver, too. It wasn't until late May that the Five Points Business Association — which had organized the Juneteenth parade along Welton Street for forty years running — announced that its parade had been canceled because the Kingdom of Glory Christian Center, a church at 2485 Welton Street, had applied for a Juneteenth parade permit that same day. So the Five Points Business Association pulled back and held a smaller celebration — which disappeared altogether this year.
Initially, organizers had planned to hold events in City Park — ceding Five Points to a second, scaled-back round of events put on by the Kingdom of Glory, as well as a celebration at the Stiles African American Center. But on May 20, they posted word that the June 23 celebration in City Park was canceled, too, a sad eventuality they blamed on "a chance in circumstances related to the contracted event producer, the PR Shop LLC."
That would be the business run by Wil Alston, which took on the event for the first time last year. As for this year, "I took a full-time job and put my business to sleep," Alston said. "As the contracted coordinator of one of the Juneteenth events, I thought I could hand the project off to another professional, but found no takers. My commitment to full-time employment made it impossible to honor the contract."
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And where is Alston's commitment? In Governor Bill Ritter's office, where he's deputy director of communications.
Better luck next year.
Scene and herd: Plans for the city's $631 million package of bond projects have yet to be approved by Mayor John Hickenlooper or the Denver City Council, but one polling firm is already taking the public's pulse on the issue. An Off Limits operative recently survived a nineteen-minute phone survey during which a pollster asked him just how much he'd support in order to increase city amenities. One bond proposal? Two? How about a property-tax hike? So far, the mayor's office disavows any knowledge of the polling work — although they have heard rumors, says spokeswoman Marlena Fernandez Berkowitz — but with $631 million at stake, plenty of institutions might be tempted to pick up the phone and dial. ... And speaking of rumors, for the past year, rumors have been flying that Johnny Depp is buying a home in Evergreen. Although Captain Jack Sparrow has yet to show up for a real-estate transaction, an Off Limits operative saw the star in Denver a few weeks ago, picking up a Range Rover.