On August 1, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado as a state. And on a much less significant day almost exactly 129 years later, I moved to this beautiful state. I first relocated to the Denver area from the St. Louis area for graduate school. I originally had no plans to stay in Colorado long-term, but as I waded through my two years of graduate school it became harder and harder to imagine myself heading back home to the Midwest. I get to see the foothills in my rearview mirror whenever I leave the house. My mop of curly hair is much easier to keep frizz-free with the lack of humidity. We get 300-plus days of sunshine. In the past 16 years, Colorado has become the place where I started my career, got married, and raised my family. I’ve seen Denver and Colorado change so much over those 16 years, but I still stand at the top of a mountain with as much wonder and awe as the day I got here.
To honor our beloved state on Colorado Day, I dug up some of the most fun Centennial State trivia I could find:
Colorado is the only state in history to turn down the Olympics. In May 1970 after politicians campaigned for nearly 20 years, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics to Denver. A ballot measure was included in the November 1972 election to authorize a $5 million bond to fund infrastructure costs to support the games. Denver voters overwhelmingly rejected the bond issue by a 60-40 margin. A week after the vote, Denver officially relinquished its status as host city.
Colorado once had three governors in a single day. The 1904 election between Democrat Alva Adams and Republican James H. Peabody was fraught with corruption. Alva Adams was elected and eventually took office, but the election was contested. Later investigation found evidence of fraudulent voting by both parties. Adams had already taken office but was replaced by Peabody on March 16, 1905 on the condition that he resign within 24 hours. Immediately following his resignation, Republican Lieutenant Governor Jesse F. McDonald was sworn in as governor. The result was three Colorado governors in a single day.
We may consider Colorado to be a winter playground, but don’t get caught throwing a snowball at someone in Aspen, Colorado. Throwing an object (including snowballs) or discharging a weapon at public buildings, private property, or at another person is a violation of a local anti-missile law that typically comes with a fine as punishment.
Are Jolly Ranchers in your candy jar? You have Bill and Dorothy Harmsen of Denver, Colorado to thank for that! The Jolly Rancher Company was created in 1949 and originally sold chocolate and ice cream in addition to hard candies, but the ice cream wasn’t very popular during Colorado winters.
Colorado was home to the oldest active pilot ever. Born March 14, 1902, just one year before the Wright Brothers’ flight, Cole Kugel of Longmont, Colorado once held the record for the world’s oldest qualified pilot. He died in June 2007, but flew for the last time at age 105 earlier that year.
You may know Denver’s Buckhorn Exchange for the many animal heads stuck on the walls. But did you know this restaurant was issued the first liquor license after Prohibition? Legend has it that during prohibition (when the restaurant was converted to a grocery), the owner would hollow out loaves of pumpernickel bread to hide bottles of bootleg whiskey to sell to customers.
The first Christmas lights were displayed along 16th Street Mall in Denver. In 1907, a Denver electrician named D.D. Sturgeon wanted to cheer up his ill 10-year-old son and dipped some light bulbs in red and green paint and strung them on the tree outside of this window.
The statues handed out at the Grammy Awards are made every year in Colorado by a man named John Billings. When Billings was a child in California, he lived next door to Bob Graves, the original creator of the Grammy statue. Billings began apprenticing under Graves in 1976 and took over the business in 1983 when Graves died. Billings moved to Colorado not long after. At one time, Billings made all the Grammys by himself. But in 1991, he redesigned the statue and slowly added more people to his team, training each person to carefully handcraft each statue.
Sure, you know the Colorado state flag, the state nickname, maybe even the state flower. But did you know that Colorado has a state amphibian, a state bird, a state cactus, a state fish, a state insect, a state reptile, a state fossil, a state gem, a state mineral, a state soil, a state dance, a state tartan, AND a state sport (nope, it’s not Broncos football either)?
Happy Colorado Day to all our Colorado neighbors. Thanks for letting me stay these past 16 years and make Colorado my home.