COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Last summer's Waldo Canyon Fire reduced sales in Old Colorado City, but merchants are counting on the annual Territory Days this weekend to jump-start sales this summer.
The 38th annual event, held over Memorial Day weekend, attracts around 150,000 people. It's described as the largest, longest-running street fair in the Southwest. Admission is free.
During last year's event, merchants also were confident of a successful summer ahead. Then the fire erupted in late June.
"Many businesses were down 50 percent to 75 percent (last) July and August," said Dave Van Ness of Old Colorado City Associates. "It was major. Five businesses closed."
This year, however, the mood remains optimistic. Van Ness said some restaurants have expanded to provide more seating for customers. Great weather is expected for the holiday weekend.
Jim Wear, in his fourth year of organizing the event, believes the economy had a greater impact than the fire on sales last summer.
"We're still looking for that bounce-back," he said. "This could be it. The money generated from Territory Days goes to promote Old Colorado City all year long."
Wear said since he began organizing the event, it has run more smoothly and there have been fewer complaints about illegal parking in surrounding neighborhoods.
New this year, said Wear, is an expanded play area for kids, and a stronger patriotic focus on Monday with the 101st Army band performing. Also appearing is the U.S. NORAD/NORTHCOM color guard.
The festival features 300 vendors selling food, drink and merchandise, and 25 bands on four stages. Many of the Old Colorado City stores will remain open, as well. Pets are not allowed, and free shuttle buses are available at Rock Ledge Ranch and Coronado High School.
The festival hours are 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday through Monday.
For more information, visit http://shopoldcoloradocity.com/events/event/territory-days