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Happy Birthday to Colorado and its canny State Capitol

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Happy Birthday Colorado. You are 133, and frankly, you are looking a little worse for wear. But that's okay because we're celebrating you anyway on Colorado Day.

Although Colorado officially became a state on August 1, 1876, it technically honors that day on the first Monday of every August. This year, Governor Bill Ritter has made it free for anyone to visit a state park today -- which might be worth doing considering the fact that Ritter's administration, faced with a massive budget crunch, is thinking about closing one or more of the parks or charging higher entrance fees to the others.

But Ritter has also asked Coloradoans today to submit suggestions for their favorite historic landmarks by August 16, on the way to compiling a list of 133. To get the discussion going, he's provided a list of 66, including the Colorado State Capitol, which offers tours of its gold-plated and gold-pated dome.

The dome itself is in trouble, however: It is rusting, rotting and cracking, and fixing it will cost between $11 million and $30 million, Ritter says -- money that the state just doesn't have (look out below!). To help, the nonprofit Colorado Preservation Inc. said Friday it planned to lead a fundraising campaign to come up with some cash.

In the meantime, tours of the dome continue -- a nice coup considering it was closed for nearly six years after 9/11. The dome contains a museum called Mr. Brown's Attic, and it's one of my favorite places, but not because of its historical treasures.

No, I am a huge fan of the capitol building replica up there -- one made in 2004 entirely out of soup cans. Yep, soup cans.

The model (which I first saw on Colorado Day two years ago) is a smaller version of one that was created four years ago by Intergroup Architects in Littleton during the People's Fair as part of "Canstruction," an annual charity fundraiser from the Society for Design Administration, a trade group for engineers, designers, architects and the like.

This year's expo will take place December 4-11 at the Colorado Mills mall. The society collects cans as part of a food drive, builds something cool and then dismantles it and donates the cans to charity. The capitol replica is the only one on permanent display, and the Denver chapter's past president, Pomie Bowers, says it will remain where it is, especially since the caned food may be a little past its due date at this point.

"We're not giving that food to anybody," she laughs.

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