The Heeney Tick Festival began sometime in the 1960’s as a fundraiser for the Lower Blue Volunteer Fire Department. It commemorated a Heeney settler’s recovery from Rocky Mountain spotted fever back in the 1940s. That’s when the Green Mountain Reservoir was being built as part of the Big Thompson Plan. Recollections are hazy as to exactly when the festival began, but by 2001 the crowds were so thick that things were getting a bit chaotic.
Others claim the first Heeney festival was held in either 1980 or 1981. It seemed to depend upon the age, memory and beer content of the local you’re talking to. The population of Heeney then was about 50, but that included 14 dogs for tax purposes. By 2001, the population had swollen to 58 after a big litter of pups, but the crowds at the festival had to be bussed in from remote parking.
The confusion about the number may be linked to the fact that there were two places to buy commemorative t-shirts, five places to buy hand-made crafts, and 18 places to buy beer. There was even a young entrepreneur walking around with an insulated beer keg on his back selling refills for whatever you tossed in his cup. I’ll never forget my first Cheesy Beany Heeney Weeny, but then, who could?
Despite the festival’s growing success, Heeney’s strategic location near the Green Mountain Dam dictated cancelling future gatherings in fear of terrorist attack after 9/11. The tick festival of 2001 was the biggest, the best, and the last. The Summit county sheriff was glad to see it go because the blood-alcohol content of festival departees was approaching Biblical proportions as they stormed home along Heeney road and Highway 9.
But danged if there wasn’t a nearby terrorist attack in Granby just three years later on June 4th, 2004. It was truly a shocking and earth-shaking event as Marvin Heemeyer drove the Killdozer down the streets of Granby. Horrific indeed, but in fact no one but Heemeyer was killed, and Granby got spruced up as a result. The rampage drew international attention, to the point of inspiring the recent Russian movie, “Leviathan”. It’s a classic story of one man’s struggle against unreasonable authority. Like Marvin, it ends badly for him.
Just a couple of weeks after the event, a small focus group was called in Granby to discuss what to do, and how to handle all the attention that Heemeyer brought to the town. For some completely unfathomable reason, I was invited to join, the token east-ender, I suppose.
Ideas went around the table but I was surprised that the overwhelming desire of the group was to bury the event and pretend it never happened. I saw it differently and suggested they drag the Killdozer to the center of the town park as a tourist attraction. Then, every year in June, the merchants could have a ‘Scratch and Dent Sale”. My words hung in the air like flatulence and the room temperature plummeted. They didn’t ask me to leave but they didn’t look at me again, either.
Some folks wouldn’t recognize opportunity if it came packaged as a bulldozer rumbling down their street.
Read an account of Heemeyer’s rampage on Wikipedia.