Denver”s historic Union Station (17th and Wazee) will be the starting point for the city”s Stock Show tradition on Tuesday, January 13th. At high-noon rodeo and farm livestock followed by celebrities, marching bands, floats, horseback riders and performing cowgirls and cowboys, will walk down the streets of the Mile High City over the hour lunch-break, symbolically kicking off the yearly Stock Show celebrations that run from January 10 through the 25th. Orchestrating the event will be Denver native Ben Kelley, who began as a volunteer for the Parade 15 years ago, and for the past 10 years has been the Parade Coordinator. As Coordinator he takes care of all the logistics with responsibilities that include securing permits, coordinate with police, send out applications to parade participants, contact parade route businesses, and all the other details that must be done far in advance to help ensure a successful event. On Parade day he has the pressure of getting the entries staged properly at Coors Field parking lots and then move them several blocks away to the official Parade step-off. “Making sure entries stay in proper order can be a challenge -coming from Coors field to 17th and Wazee things can get jostled up a bit” chuckled Kelley who is know for his easy sense of humor. When asked if any of the “jostling” ever involved the impressive looking Longhorn cattle that have been at the front of the parade for a number of years, Kelley”s chuckle and response sounded a little nervous, “Funny you should ask that…” Though hardly the running of the bulls at Pamplona, Kelley told the story of a lone Longhorn who wanted to do the parade his way. The incident took place at the staging area in Coors lots A & B two years ago when Denver received record snow weeks prior to the Parade. Kelley and company”s staging area was somewhat tight because of the huge piles of snow in the parking lot. “The Longhorns are usually on there best behavior and their handlers are very professional,” assured Kelley, ” But as we were letting them out of their holding pen one decided to go for a run through the staging area ” parting the Burlington High School Band and ran around the parking lot until it was lead back to its pen. Though there was no damage done it was decided to keep the rambunctious cow out of the parade.” Seeing the humor from a distance of time he reassured with a chuckle, “Generally these animals are pretty docile and good for paraded because they tend to just follow each other.” Last year there was another case of parade route improv involving the Longhorns in conspiracy with Governor Bill Ritter. The Governor rode in the parade last year, and Kelley had to work out arrangements with his security detail. The arrangement were, that the Governor, on horseback, and his security detail, in car, would lead off the Parade with the Longhorns and then exit at the official parade ending at 15th and Tremont while the rest of the parade continued to travel back to Coors field parking/staging area. All was well towards the end of the parade as the Longhorns were veered off the parade route at the 1400 block of Tremont to be loaded on to waiting livestock trailers. However, the Governors security detail was in front of the Longhorns as they veered off and were now separated from their protectee. “The governors security detail is in front of the Longhorns, the Governor decided that it was such a nice day that he wanted to stay with the parade all the way to Coors -meanwhile his security detail can”t get out because there are 30 Longhorns blocking their way,” chuckled Kelley recalling the panicked protectors, “They didn”t catch up with him until Union Station!” Last month Kelley was at a function at the Governor”s Mansion and took the opportunity to thank the Governor for being in the parade and then lightly brought up the incidence of breaking off from the security detail. “The Governor is a big man,” said Kelley laughing, “he just looked down at me, smiled and said, “Yeah, I like to do that every chance I get”. This year the Parade will have the Longhorns again ” about 25 to 30 head according to Kelley. A relatively short parade “held over the lunch hour as not to impact business traffic of a work day, the Stock Show Parade brings out a good turnout of people each year and Kelley promises something for everyone. A sampling of the parade roster for this year includes the Burlington Marching Band, Strasburg High School Marching Band, Maggie Wild”s Shelties, antique tractors, mounted police patrols from Denver and Jefferson Counties, Two mounted teams from the Westernaires, Miss Rodeo Colorado, Miss Rodeo USA, local rodeo royalty, radio sponsor KYGO”s float, Grand Marshall Baxter Black, and of course lots more livestock. Kelley is also well known for his many years of volunteer activities in the Denver Irish community. The seventh of eight of children of Thomas and Agnes Kelley, the seeds of his Irish American identity were sown early. Born and raised in North Denver, he and his family would get together every St. Patrick”s Day with another big Irish family in the neighborhood, the Haney”s, who had 11 kids. Jim Haney, now a Lieutenant with Investigations of Pattern crimes for Denver Police Department (Brothers John and Mark are both Detectives in District 2) recalled the days. “I”ve known Ben since he was born,” laughed Haney who is a few years older then Kelley. “Every St. Patrick”s Day we would celebrate alternating hosting house each year. It was like the biggest holiday of the year- the Kelley boys would box the Haney boys “the dads loved that!” Kelley”s dad was quite the boxer even later in life as Haney described, “He was in his late 60″s, we were getting ready for a fight for a police department fundraiser – he got out there and was sparring with us ” I couldn”t believe how quick and good shape that he was still in!” The Denver St. Patrick”s Day Parade was also a part of Kelley”s life at an early age. “I use to go to the St. Pat”s parade when I was a kid.” he said, “that was back in the day when they painted donkeys green and goofy things like that.” Kelly began his official involvement in the Irish community as a volunteer for the parade in 1989. The first St. Patrick”s day parade he worked as a parade Marshall. “I was put on 10th and Bannock, the street that was then used to stage parade entries. One of my functions was to prevent people parking there who were not in the parade. Well, one of the businesses there was a methadone clinic, and Saturday is probably their busiest day”and trying to stop people to park in front of their methadone clinic to get their fix is really hard” Kelley continued to be involved with the St. Patrick”s Day parade and surrounding Irish events. The Colorado Irish Festival formed in 1995 and held its first annual event at the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver in August of that year. Kelly was one of the founding committee members and festival workhorse. In September of 95 he volunteered for Celtic Events, the Denver based production company who was hired by the Vail Celtic Festival ” to bring in headline talent and produce their concert at the Dobson arena. Kelley still lists the event as one of his most memorable. “That was a lot of fun, I was pretty green “no pun intended. I remember Cherish the Ladies and Joanie Madden who ran a tight ship.” And the music was magic. “That”s when I got hooked on Irish music- prior to that it was just “Oh Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” type songs. Doing 6 gigs in 4 days with the Irish band Reeltime was another of his favorites. Venues ranged from Beaver Creek to Denver, traveling over 100 miles each way through winter storms. And of course anytime Phil Coulter is in town you will see Kelley close by as driver and personal assistant. Kelley”s love for the music brought him to Ireland where he danced away at many ceili”s surrounding the Willie Clancy Summer School. He also acquired a noteworthy collection of autographed CDs while working with Celtic Events. An employee of U.S Geological Survey over 25 years, Kelley continues to work in events on weekends and over summer vacation time. He works for a couple of event companies doing festivals, urban adventure races, and other community events including the “Celebrate Culture Parade”. Showing his special fondness for parades Kelley said, “The parades are a lot of fun – you work hard to put this event together to show the audience on the street, and to be able to see the different facial expressions from the kids to adults is well worth the effort.” Giving more insight to the joys of a successful special event Kelly continued his thoughts “The first year that I held the contract for the Stock Show Parade is still ingrained in my memory. I was at 17th and Wazee for the Parade step-off ” finally I could take a deep breath of relief ” that was such a good feeling- it was like “Wow, I put this thing together” But always empathetic and appreciative to the volunteer he added. “The day of the parade I would be lost without my volunteers, without them there would not be a show.” Postscripts: “As a touring performer, your link with the audience is your Promoter. He is the one that sorts out the date, does the public relations through the Media etc., and generally makes the whole thing happen. As in all areas of show business you get the Good, the Bad and the Ugly! In Denver I have had THE BEST! Pat McCullough and his team throw themselves into the job with passion, and leave no stone unturned to make sure the gig is a success. Through the years a critical member of that team has been Ben Kelley. He is always there, ready, willing and able. Nothing is too much trouble for Ben and his cheery demeanor and sense of humor have been so much a part of the Denver experience for myself, my wife Geraldine and all my crew. I am delighted that Ben’s contribution is being recognized and am so pleased to have the opportunity to salute him publicly. WELL DONE BEN. YOU’RE A HERO!” Phil Coulter To make good things happen you need good people. Ben Kelley is the best. He can grasp the big picture as well as the many small details that can make or break an event. I first met Ben when we worked together on the inaugural Colorado Irish Festival. I was impressed with his work ethic that he brough,t unencumbered by ego or agenda. He was willing to do whatever he could to help make the event a success, including some of the less glamorous jobs, and did so with little recognition. The day after the fun and celebration of the festival, Ben was the first of the few whom returned to the fest site to pick-up the garbage from the event. Ben was like a Jack-of- all-trades at Celtic Events. There wasn”t anything that he wouldn”t do (well- he didn”t like to introduce the artists), from airport runs, load-in, load-out, and everything in between. He would bend over backwards to help the performers feel at home. Once a group of road-weary performers asked Ben if he knew of a place where they could wash their clothes. He drove them to his home where they used his washer and dryer while being treated to food and drink. Typical Ben Kelley ” helping above and beyond! Pat McCullough, Celtic Events

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