In an unexpected announcement last Thursday, the Cripple Creek City Council voted 4 to 1 to cancel the 28th annual Salute to American Veterans Rally, scheduled for August 21-23.

The rally’s founder and organizer, Jim Wear said “This decision completely blindsided us. The city of Cripple Creek approved the event and the sponsorship funding on June 17. Our huge hurdle was then to get approval from the county health department for the gathering.”

After a huge amount of work, rally organizers obtained the coveted county health permit with full approval from state and county health departments. “Most folks thought we’d never get the county permit” said Wear. “We had a solid plan in place which met all the guidelines and we were prepared to keep the crowds outdoors, safe and happy. The last thing we expected was for the city of Cripple Creek to pull the plug.”

City Council woman Meghan Rozell stated that Cripple Creek businesses and residents overwhelmingly wanted the rally canceled due to concerns over COVID-19 and the potential for the Governor to close the casinos down if an outbreak occurred. There was however a lot of feedback which seem to be contrary to Rozell’s supposition. “The first three casino owners we spoke to immediately after the decision told us that no one from the city had contacted them, and that the decision was a complete surprise to them.” Said Wear. “We also heard from many residents that they were upset at the decision.”

The other thing that came to light immediately was that rally attendees were coming anyway in spite of the Rally being canceled. The city of Cripple Creek area hotels have reported almost no room cancellations, and social media indicates that most rally attendees plan to be in Teller County on the weekend. “our belief all along was that after 30 years, the rally has a life of its own and people were coming anyway” said Wear. “We know that this is part of the reason that the county commissioners granted our permit as they understood that we needed to work together to manage the crowd, keep everyone safe, and happy outdoors. Clearly, the city of Cripple Creek did not believe the same to be true.”

Immediately after the announcement came overwhelming pressure from the community of Veterans to keep the 33rd annual POW/MIA recognition ride in place. “The recognition ride is a completely separate entity from the rally.” Said Wear. “As the ride stages in Woodland Park, they issue the permit, and their City Council was unanimously in support of the ride. We also had already put our permit from the Colorado State patrol in place and the Veterans we serve demanded the ride.” Wear added “At a time when millions of protesters nationwide have been not only allowed, but encouraged to gather in protest against America, the police, capitalism and more, it is only right that those of us who love America, the constitution, our flag and mean to celebrate our freedom would be allowed to gather, peacefully and in much smaller numbers, then those who mean to show their disdain for our country.”

Additional annual rally features that are still in place and will not be canceled include the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association POKER RUN, Friday in Cripple Creek, the “Red Friday” T-shirt giveaway in downtown Woodland Park, and the dedication of a bronze plaque to a fallen Marine in Cripple Creek city Park at 1 PM Saturday. “Chuck Geertz died on his motorcycle after last year’s rally. Chuck was a proud and loyal American who dedicated his life to serving his fellow veterans after he retired from the military.” Said Wear. “Like so many we have heard from, Chuck’s family told us that they were coming anyway as their flight and hotel reservations were in place. We decided then and there that we would be honoring Chuck and dedicating his bronze plaque on our memorial in Cripple Creek’s city park as planned.” Wear added “There are many things that City Council can hold back. There are also many things that they cannot stop from happening. Our rights to assemble, ride our motorcycles on our POW/MIA Memorial Highway and honor those veterans who so gallantly gave us our freedom will not be withheld.”

In closing, Wear added “No one can cancel FREEDOM.”

For more information on what is and what is not happening with the ride and the rally go to www.theveteransrally.org