Thursday, October 7, 2010

Send in the Clowns

Last week I was pleased to welcome The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus to town. A large crowd of trainbuffs, kids, and neighbors gathered at the intersection of York Street and E. 47th Avenue, a leaping lasso of a street crossing on Swansea's east side. A huge and ancient Union Pacific steam engine pulled the circus into the intersection. Whistles blue and smoke and steam filled the air. The circus train is billed as the longest and heaviest train in the world, stuffed full of animals, performers and most importantly, the clowns.

Jonathan, the full-voiced and mellifluent circus ringmaster, introduced me with a flourish, just after he told the crowd about the clowns. When he mentioned "clowns," his hand innocently gestured in my direction. I welcomed the circus performers and told them I took no offense in Ringmaster Jonathan's waving toward me as he brought up the subject of clowns. I told the crowd that the mayor and council wanted to be there but they were in a weekly meeting. A sarcastic wag in the crowd shouted, "Send in the clowns." The people laughed.

I felt like I was at the Newt Gingrich talk with all the tea party and no one world folks shouting and protesting.

"Some may wonder where Barnum neighborhood got its name," I asked the crowd. "With over 300 days of sunshine, the original P. T. wintered many of his circus animals here and P.T. bought land over in west Denver. The city fathers were so happy that Barnum, a genuine easterner, would bring economic development and attention to our fair city, they named part of west Denver for him. I don't believe they used tax increment financing for the development. Barnum loaned younger lion and bear cubs to Mary Elitch for her Zoological Gardens on 38th and Tennyson."

I think Denver has always had a bit of an inferiority complex about things. We are not happy with the way we are. We always seem so delighted when some clowns, I mean, developers, commercial groups or entrepreneurs want to bring some new unusual enterprize into town. We can't wait to give away the farm. Remember the millions the Grand Prix was going to bring to the city coffers? How many times have we been told as Denverites that this event or this enterprize will finally make Denver a first-class city? These venues are often billed as "public-private partnerships." That means the public pays while the private partner leaves town with the money after the circus has its run.

Let's try to remember Denver is already a first-class city. We don't need to feel inferior about our town. We have the stock show. Got your red nose piece? Send in the clowns.

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