By Raetta Holdman

DENVER (CBS4) – A small but fierce nonprofit is preparing to throw a huge 4th of July party for the eighth year. Of course, that’s Independence Eve hosted by the Civic Center Conservancy.

The fifth annual Independence Eve (credit: Evan Semón/CBS4)

The free concert with a fireworks finale has become a Denver favorite since it simply appeared on the scene. Now families flock to the park early on July 3 to get prime real estate.

Lindy Eichenbaum Lent (credit: CBS)

And that’s the goal of the Conservancy.

“The Civic Center Conservancy has been focused on giving more people reasons to enjoy Civic Center more often,” explained Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, the executive director.

From food to yoga to music, the group now has programs happening the park 191 days a year.

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“Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, there is no better place for lunch than Civic Center Eats. We bring in a couple dozen, authentically local gourmet food trucks each day with live local music and shaded bistro seating,” Lent said. “It’s a great way to enjoy incredible, get a sense of the community all while soaking in the horticultural beauty and architectural beauty of Civic Center.”

She went on to say while all cities now have food trucks, very few bring them together at a national historic landmark.

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Civic Center received that designation in 2012.

“Being a national historic landmark carries a lot of pride for the city and it really is in recognition Civic Center is one of the most intact, city beautiful landscapes left in our country,” Lent said.

But one part of the park could use a little extra love, the Greek Amphitheater.

“The Greek theater is a historic structure it was intended to be a cultural space that brought people together to enjoy the arts,” she said.

“Over the decades it’s really become under-utilized so we’re very much hoping in the fall city wide bond election there might be some funding available to really help bring this theater into the 21st century, make it more usable for performing arts groups and make it more comfortable for audience members.”

And it’s not just food and arts that brings people to Civic Center Park. The Conservancy also hosts Civic Center Moves, a free fitness series that goes all year long.

“During the summer months, all of the classes Monday through Thursday, are outside enjoying the beautiful Colorado weather,” Lent said. “Then in the winter months we move into the McNichols Civic Center Building so we are able to go year round.”

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“We like to think the participants get healthier and so does the park.”

In fact, Lent called heading to the park for both Eats and Moves calorie neutral.

She said getting people into the park is the vital, that leaving urban parks empty can attract the wrong element.

“If they’re empty, no matter how well located or historic or beautiful, they will invite criminal activity. So activating the park, getting people down here with positive activity is really a critical public safety issue.”

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And no event gets more people into Civic Center Park than Independence Eve. An estimated 100,000 people fill the park for the music and fireworks finale.

“If you grew up going to a park with your family and friends, going to a park to watch fireworks, hear a concert and you’re nostalgic for that, come to Civic Center on July 3,” Lent said. “It’s really Denver’s largest picnic. People bring food, we have food trucks on sight as well that. The concert will make you want to dance, make you feel patriotic, all with a stunning light show and a rooftop fireworks finale.”

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But about that fireworks finale.

“I think it’s important for people to realize it’s a different kind of fireworks show. It’s not going to a rural or suburban show where the is a large aerials that go on forever. We are in an urban environment so there are rules and regulations over what kind of fireworks we can do in a dense urban environment from a rooftop.”

All playing out on what Lent calls Denver’s front yard.

“When you think about your front yard, it’s the place where you want to put your best foot forward and make both your neighbors and your visitors feel welcome.

All thanks to the little nonprofit that can.

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“Whether it’s Independence Eve, the food trucks, the free Civic Center Moves fitness classes, I think it’s important for people to realize there is a small nonprofit, small but mighty, behind the scenes making all this happen. Trying to give Civic Center Park life and give it back to the community as a vibrant asset.”

Formed in 2004, the Civic Center Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the City and County of Denver restore, enhance and activate Civic Center Park. The Conservancy has a formal cooperative agreement with the City and County of Denver designating it as the official fundraising vehicle for Civic Center Park.

Raetta Holdman is a veteran newscast producer. She’s been with CBS4 for more than 25 years, coordinating events — large and small — from the control room. Contact her by clicking here.


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