Summer is finally here, and in Weld County that means it is time for the Greeley Stampede. This year, the Greeley Stampede is commemorating the county’s sesquicentennial with a commemorative belt buckle featuring the Weld County 150th Anniversary logo.
The tradition of Greeley Stampede commemorative belt buckles dates back to 1986, when the Stampede committee decided to use annual belt buckle designs as a way to honor community organizations or events that have directly impacted Northern Colorado or the United States. Each year, the Stampede marketing department chooses a theme which is the foundation of the buckle design.
Buckles are given as gifts to the Grand Marshals and are for sale through the Stampede office. To order your buckle, call 970-356-7787, or stop by the Stampede Office at 600 N. 14th Ave. in Greeley.
by Jack H. Gillette,
originally published in the June 19, 1999, Weld County Past Times
In the early days, it was a one day celebration, and it was known as the Spud Rodeo. Over the years it evolved into a two-week celebration including rodeos, night shows with well-known entertainers, a carnival and the big parade on the Fourth of July. There is also a pancake breakfast and numerous other activities during those two weeks. It is now called the Greeley Independence Stampede.
I don’t remember the first time we drove in from Grover on the Fourth of July to watch the parade, but I know it was possible then to park your car at the end of an alley along the parade route and watch it from the car. Then too, there were lots of horses, and the floats were so fancy with their decorations of colored paper napkins and crepe paper stuck in the holes of chicken wire.
When the carnival came to Greeley in 1960, Barb and I decided to go. Neither of us had been to the Fourth celebration for a few years because of my time in the Navy. Having been my wife for more than 14 months she trusted me with most everything. That is, until that night. We rode a few rides, and then I wanted to go on the Loop-O-Plane. She said, “No.” I told her it was a great ride and she would be safe. When the ride was over I had to help her out of the plane and lead her to a grassy area of the park where she could lie down. She was horribly sick and couldn’t move because of extreme dizziness and nausea. It was an effort, but we finally got her home. We found out shortly after, she was pregnant with our first daughter. Even unpregnant, I have never again been able to talk her into another carnival ride in 39 years.
I don’t remember what year it was, but someone got the great idea of changing the parade route to 10th Avenue, right in front of our house. Oh, that was going to be perfect. We could sleep in and then get up in time to watch the parade from our porch with a good cup of coffee. Were we in for a surprise, and it’s been the same routine since.
On parade morning, we are awakened by the street sweepers driving up and down the route to make sure it is clean for the runners, the spectators, the marchers and the road apples. It’s barely light, and that’s with Daylight Savings Time. The sweepers wake up more than just us and the other neighbors. They, also, wake up those asleep on the lawns along the route. We must have a great parade because in recent years people have started laying their blankets on the grass across the street from our house the night before to reserve their place. They reserve mostly the east side of the street so that the sun is to their backs in the morning. More recently, there have been those who set up little camping tents and spend the night. The more hardy ones will sleep in the open in their sleeping bags. It’s almost as much fun to watch the preparations as it is to watch the parade. What makes it even more appealing for spending the night are the convenient port-a-potties placed along the route.
‘Course, living where we do we have many friends show up to sit on our yard. We try to reserve a large portion for as long as we can. Up until a few years ago we would have a pot luck picnic in our yard for our family and friends who came to the parade. It grew to well more than 70 people at the picnic. We’ve even had a person or two join us who were passing by and saw what was going on and got in line.
The year the team and wagon got away from the driver, we were right there along the curb. I’ll always remember the terrified look fo the man in the wagon trying his best to stop the team, but there wasn’t much he could do. That team had been spooked. The steal rim of the wagon wheel screamed along the curb. My mom, in her late 70s, saw it coming and she fell out of her chair as she reached down and dragged two kids away from the curb. They would have been hit if it had not been for her. Additional safety precautions were added the next year.
The Fourth of July always brings back so many memories. Years ago, when we lived on the ranch, we could buy fireworks at Clyde Wright’s Grover Drug Store. Cousin Don and I would see how high we could blow tin cans with big fire crackers, or we’d stuff firecrackers down the holes in and hills and see how much damage we could do.
While there are past memories, new memories are being created each year. The fire trucks shooting water into the crowds are making fun memories for our grandchildren and their friends. Aaron, our grandson, has already talked about rigging a hose from the third story of our house and firing it at the fireman. I told him we’d better not in case the pressure fell short of the street and doused some in the crowd. Each year the kids get bigger water shooting equipment and go right out to challenge the trucks. Last year a firefighter was sitting atop one of the trucks with the hose in his hand. He was looking straight ahead as though not paying attention to anything along side. I watched him closely, and when the kids were closing in on his truck, he swiftly turned and opened the valve. He absolutely saturated every kid near the truck. They thought it was great.
We are again looking forward to the parade. It is a good time to see friends, meet other people and get a lot of visiting done.
I always want to remember why we celebrate the Fourth of July. It’s because of freedom, freedom won for us over 220 years ago and maintained for us by those who have valued and cherished it. Sometimes when Old Glory passes by there’s no more recognition of it than if it were a banner for a band. I look around and see a few older people standing up, or taking their hats off or putting their hand over their heart. I sometimes wonder, but still hope that we won’t forget what the flag of this country represents, and that we will respect it for that.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if someone could get the pilots to make a second fly over? Have a great and sober Fourth of July celebration.