Marijuana

Civic Center Draws a Sparse 4/20 Crowd

Civic Center Park on April 20, 2021, as 4:20 p.m. approached.
Civic Center Park on April 20, 2021, as 4:20 p.m. approached. Hilal Bahcetepe
Civic Center Park was sparsely populated as 4:20 p.m. rolled around on Tuesday, April 20.

For over a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, the usual festivities at Civic Center Park included free concerts, plenty of paraphernalia vendors and unsanctioned weed smoking. But with no 4/20 rally or festival taking place yesterday and snow still melting across the park, the crowds didn't show.

There was a guy in a Grateful Dead shirt hitting a bubbler near the amphitheater, and another dude sitting on a bench listening to reggae music playing from his phone. A handful of cheers and claps echoed across the park as 4:20 arrived, and small plumes of smoke scattered around the air for a few minutes — but it was far from the fake rain cloud that 50,000-plus people can create.

More action occurred across the street at the State Capitol as a small crowd awaited news of Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the death of George Floyd, but that was also far from a protest or rally.


click to enlarge Civic Center Park on April 20, 2021, as 4:20 p.m. approached. - HILAL BAHCETEPE
Civic Center Park on April 20, 2021, as 4:20 p.m. approached.
Hilal Bahcetepe
This was the second year in a row that Civic Center was quiet on 4/20. Last year, while stay-at-home orders were in effect because of the pandemic, the perimeter of the park was closed off by fences, police officers waited in the grass, and sirens and automated warnings blared at 4:20 p.m.

Pandemic notwithstanding, Denver attracts thousands of cannabis tourists, activists and consumers each year to celebrate the unofficial holiday for stoners. Civic Center has been the designated venue to host 4/20 rallies and protests for more than a decade, thanks largely to the late cannabis activist Ken Gorman. Two competing organizers say they plan to host something at Civic Center next year, so we’ll see how cloudy things get in 2022.
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Hilal is an alumni of Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in political science. She's written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine, and is the current cannabis intern for Westword.
Contact: Hilal Bahcetepe