There will be a new event at Civic Center Park on April 20, and it's bringing in some big names. Two months after their permit application was approved by the City of Denver, Mile High 420 Festival organizers announced that they've planned performances by Lil Wayne, Lil' John, the Original Wailers and Inner Circle, among others.
The event permit has changed hands this year, moving from longtime Denver 420 Rally organizer Miguel Lopez to Euflora, a Denver-based dispensary chain. According to Euflora marketing director Bobby Reginelli, around 50,000 people are expected to attend the new festival, which will be much more about the cannabis culture than politics. "It's more diverse this year," he says. "We knew 30,000 people were going to attend this event regardless, so we wanted to reach out to the yoga community, bluegrass fans, people who like craft goods and anyone else."
Although they won't stop performers or scheduled speakers from talking politics, Reginelli and other event organizers say they felt it was time to move on from the hybrid of concerts and political talks that the 420 Rally was known for. Instead, the new festival will focus on entertainment and commerce, with local musicians, comedians, food trucks and craft vendors at the all-day event.
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Cannabis consumption will not be allowed, because public cannabis consumption is illegal in Colorado, according to the festival website. And as a city-owned property, Civic Center Park is disqualified from receiving a special-events permit for private cannabis consumption spaces. Organizers of the original 420 Rally had always embraced consumption at the event, even as Denver police officers handed out consumption citations throughout the day — but as a licensed pot business, Euflora might have more to lose.
"A lot of our work has been fundraising and locking down talent, but the city makes this very difficult," Reginelli explains. "That being said, we're committed to working with them to make sure this festival is a success." Euflora hired local event planner Team Player Productions — known for organizing such events as the People's Fair, Taste of Fort Collins, Denver Burger Battle and Vail Craft Beer Classic — to help secure entertainment and avoid any mishaps that rally-goers experienced last year.
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The City of Denver prohibited Lopez and his associates from getting the permit after months of back-and-forth allegations about overflowing trash cans, long security lines and broken fences at last year's 420 Rally. Lopez and his attorney, Rob Corry, had appealed the initial ban, but their efforts were rejected in November by a city hearing officer. This year's festival will have four times the security and several more entrances, according to Euflora.
Euflora was a sponsor of the rally in 2017 and was upset with how it was handled, according to company executives, so they decided to go for the permit themselves. Euflora employees began camping outside the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation office on Colfax Avenue in October, waiting for the day that the city would accept event permit applications for April 20, 2018. Euflora wasn't first in line, though: Michael Ortiz, an associate of Lopez's, beat Euflora staffers to the application window during the early hours of November 21, securing his permit's place at the top.
Reginelli was vocal about his displeasure with the city's handling of security at entrances to the building the previous evening, accusing Ortiz of slipping in through an unapproved entrance and being unclear with security about his application intentions. After weeks of deliberation, the city agreed with Euflora, denying Ortiz's application on the grounds of "misrepresentations and deceit" and awarding Euflora the permit in January.
"We want this to be about the cannabis community in Colorado, so that's why we really want some local partners and booths here," Reginelli says. "We're tired of watching this fall on its face. This is Euflora's chance to give back to Denver, and Colorado by extension."