The Denver Civic Heart attracts a scant 4/20 crowd


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Civic Center Park was sparsely populated when rolled around at 4:20 pm on Tuesday, April 20.

Over a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak last year, usual celebrations at Civic Center Park included free concerts, numerous paraphernalia sellers, and unapproved weed smoking. But since there was no 4/20 rally or festival yesterday and snow was still melting in the park, the crowds did not show up.

In a Grateful Dead shirt, a man met a bubbler near the amphitheater, and another guy was sitting on a bench listening to reggae music on his cell phone. A handful of cheers and claps echoed through the park when 4:20 a.m. arrived, and small clouds of smoke spread in the air for a few minutes – but it was far from the fake rain cloud that more than 50,000 people can create.

There was further action across the street from the State Capitol as a small crowd awaited news of Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the death of George Floyd, but that was far from a protest or rally either.

Civic Center Park on April 20, 2021 as 4:20 p.m. approached.

Civic Center Park on April 20, 2021 as 4:20 p.m. approached.

Hilal Bahcetepe

This was the second year in a row that the Civic Center was quiet on April 20th. Last year, when home stay orders were in place due to the pandemic, the perimeter of the park was cordoned off with fences, police officers waited in the grass, and sirens and automatic warnings sounded at 4:20 pm

Despite the pandemic, Denver draws thousands of cannabis tourists, activists, and users every year to celebrate the unofficial holiday for stoners. The Civic Center has hosted 4/20 rallies and protests for more than a decade, largely thanks to the late cannabis activist Ken Gorman. Two competing organizers say they plan to do something at the Civic Center next year, so we’ll see how cloudy things get in 2022.

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Hilal is a Metropolitan State University of Denver alumni with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine, and is the current cannabis intern for Westword.

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