Congratulations to DU Athletics

National championships in the sports that get the most coverage are rare for Colorado colleges. The only football championship came in 1990, when CU won the Associated Press poll. This was before there was the small playoff that exists today. In fact, Georgia Tech won the UPI poll in 1990, so CU actually shared the then mythical title. And while CU has had some success in basketball in recent years, a NCAA title still seems a long way off.

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Colorado schools have had great success in other sports, however. Most recently, last year on Memorial Day the University of Denver became the first NCAA Lacrosse champion from a school west of the Mississippi. And the Pioneers LAX team began the season ranked #1 this year, although they are currently #2 in the early season. Meanwhile, DU’s hockey team, a traditional powerhouse in the gentlemanly art of ice hockey, is currently ranked #1 nationally. They have won 7 national championships, the last one in 2005.

DU ski team is also ranked #2 in the current NCAA polls, which makes them the second highest ranked ski team in Colorado. As you might guess, Colorado attracts great skiers, and the #1 ranked ski team currently is the Colorado Buffaloes. It is probably no surprise that CU dominates intercollegiate skiing, having won the NCAA championship 20 times.

Banjo Billy wishes the best of luck to DU and CU teams as they finish their seasons this spring. We also wish to see you on our bus. Grab a ticket on our web site, or call our office to schedule a private tour for your birthday party, team building event, or just for fun.

Banjo Billy Loves Improv!

Last week our guide Patrick had the honor of performing improv briefly with the touring company from Second City at the Boulder Theater.  If you’re not familiar with Second City, it is a sketch comedy and improv company started in Chicago in the early 1960’s. It has trained many of the people you have laughed at your whole life, including Alan Alda, George Wendt, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, and Tina Fey.  Second City is not the only place to learn and perform improv. In fact, there is a thriving community of improvisers in the Denver/Boulder area.

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In Denver there are 2 small venues devoted to the art of improv, The Voodoo Lounge and the Bovine Metropolis.  These venues both have shows on a regular basis featuring their own groups, or other groups from the area. If you’ve always thought you’d like to try improv, you can also take classes at the Voodoo and the Bovine.

In Boulder there is a Meetup group called the Boulder Improv Collaborative.  This is a meetup where you can sign up and get information about classes and opportunities to get together with other improvisers and play. They do not have a theater, but groups from BIC can be seen performing every third Thursday at the Wesley Chapel on the CU campus. They can also be found on occasion at the Diary Center and other venues. BIC has some of the world’s greatest and funniest improv performers…and we’re not just saying that because our Boulder guides Patrick, Myles and Glenn are all members and have performed in various groups that came from BIC.  Okay, maybe we are. In fact, Myles and Patrick work with Banjo Billy because Glenn knew them from BIC. Myles also teaches a beginning improv class via BIC.

If you’ve never been to an improv show, we encourage you to check it out. Watching a scene be created from nothing but an audience suggestion is quite fun, and almost magical when it works well. Or take a class. It is a fun, and can translate into valuable skills for whatever you do in real life.

We hope to see you at an Improv show, or perhaps a class. But we really hope to see you on the Banjo Billy Bus, where we put our skills to use informing and entertaining people from around the world.

Colorado’s First Supreme Court Justice

Neil Gorsuch of Boulder had been nominated to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. We will leave the jokes about how they found a conservative in Boulder for our guides. Since we at Banjo Billy’s like to educate people about history, we would like to familiarize you with the first Supreme Court Justice from Colorado, Byron “Whizzer” White.

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Byron White was born in Fort Collins, CO in 1917, and raised in the nearby town of Wellington. He was not only the Valedictorian of his school of his high school class, but an outstanding athlete as well. White attended the University of Colorado on a scholarship available to all Valedictorians in the state.  At CU, he was the perfect model for the student-athlete. White graduated Phi Beta Kappa and won a Rhoades Scholarship, while also being an All American halfback for the Buffaloes. He led the Buffs to their first ever bowl game appearance in the Cotton Bowl in 1937 after and 8-0 regular season ( The Buffs lost to Rice). He also played basketball and baseball, and was class president.

White was the 4th pick in the NFL draft upon graduation, and delayed his Rhoades Scholarship a few years while he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Steelers). While at Oxford he became friends with Joe and John Kennedy, who’s father was Ambassador to England.  He graduated from Yale Law school and practiced law in Denver for 15 years.

In 1960 White used his popularity in Colorado to campaign for John F. Kennedy. He then served as Deputy Attorney General for Kennedy (Robert Kennedy was Attorney General) and was instrumental in protecting the Freedom Riders in 1961. He became the first and, so far, only Supreme Court Justice from Colorado in 1962 at the age of 44, and served until 1993.

And the nickname “Whizzer”? As you might guess, that was given to him by a sports reporter in Boulder because of his play on the football field.

If you like history and a good laugh, then you need to take our Denver and Boulder tours  on the wonderful Banjo Billy Bus.  YEEE HAAAWWW, your Honor!

RIP Unsinkable Molly Brown

It’s been a bad year to be a celebrity, and as the year closes, we have lost a great performer with a small connection to the Banjo Billy tour in Denver.

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Debbie Reynolds was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Molly Brown in the film version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The film was based on the hit Broadway musical, for which Tammy Grimes had won a Tony Award (that award is named after a Denver native!). While the film was not factually accurate, it was a big hit for the young Reynolds.

If you’ve taken our Denver tour, you might remember that we stop at the Molly Brown House and Museum, and discuss the life of this extremely interesting and vibrant woman (who’s name was actually Margaret).  She was a woman who would was ahead of her time, and a constant campaigner for the welfare of women and poor people.

Rest in Peace Ms. Reynolds. You and Margaret Brown would likely have been great friends.

Happy Holidays From Banjo Billy…and that includes Boxing Day!

In the United States we celebrate Christmas as a national holiday. Many Americans don’t realize that in much of the rest of the western world, the day after Christmas is also a holiday. December 26 is Boxing Day, and it has nothing to do with having a fist fight with the relatives you spent Christmas day with.

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It is an English tradition that the day after Christmas was the day that servants received a Christmas Box from their employers. This has now extended into what is known as a “bank holiday” in England. Canada also celebrates Boxing Day as a holiday. In the United States, we call it “the day we take the ugly sweater back to the store”.

This year, with Christmas on a Sunday, Boxing Day will also be a holiday for most Americans. So, Banjo Billy’s will be doing tours in Denver and Boulder at 1pm. Get your relatives out of your house and onto our bus!

 

We’ve Added some Ghost Tours

We don’t usually tours on Monday nights, but since Halloween is on a Monday this year, and since it is the best holiday of the year (fun costumes, parties, candy, no gifts to buy or family dinners! What could beat that!) we’ve added 1 tour on October 31 at 7pm in both Denver and Boulder. Our tours that weekend sell out so quickly, we hope this will allow more people to enjoy the season.

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And we’ve also added Thursday night tours at 6pm in Denver and Boulder the last 3 Thursdays of October.

So, there is less of an excuse for missing our scary fun ghost tours this year. BOOOO!!!

BOO!! It’s Ghost Tour Season!

Things that go bump in the night! Furniture moving around the room! Cold spots! People who appear from nowhere, then disappear! If any of those things are your idea of fun, then October is the month for you on the Banjo Billy Bus.

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Saturday, October 1, is the first day of Ghost Tour Season on the Banjo Billy Bus. Come join us in Denver and Boulder at 6 and 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sundays at 4pm for some harrowing ghost stories. Learn what went on at the Croak Patterson mansion, why people sometimes can’t move when they lay on the grass at Cheeseman Park, and who keeps moving pictures in the Firefighters Museum.  Find out where you can find Boulder’s only lynching victim, who you might meet in the elevator of the Hotel Boulderado, and who that misbehaving boy is in the Montgomery House. Those tails and much more are revealed in our extremely popular ghost tours. And it all happens on the coolest bus in town.

If you like ghosts, you’ll want to get your tickets early. Some of our tours are already close to selling out.

We hope to see you this year for a “spirited good time”!

Shakespeare’s First Folio at CU

shakbookI don’t think we need to explain to you who William Shakespeare is, or how his plays are the most produced works of any playwright in history. Chances are, whether you like it or not, you have been exposed to Shakespeare even if you have never seen a production of one of his plays. If you have ever described anyone as a “laughingstock”, been on a “wild goose chase” or done something in “one fell swoop”, you are quoting Olde Shakey himself!

Until the end of August, you can view the origins of those phrases and many others we use everyday, as well as the classic works of theatrical art from which they came. Shakespeare’s First Folio is currently on exhibit at the University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder. Upon Shakespeare’s death John Hemmings and Henry Condell, the last two remaining original actors from Shakespeare’s theater, feared that his great works might disappear forever. So they had 36 of his works bound into one book. This is that book. If you are really interested in the book’s creation, you can see the play The Book of Will in January and February at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

You will probably not hear any language as beautiful as that written by The Bard on a Banjo Billy Bus Tour. But you can learn a lot about the history of Boulder and Denver while having a fun time on the world’s coolest bus. We hope you will join us!

Watch for Coloradans in Rio!

The US Olympic Team is usually full of Coloradans when the Winter Olympics come around. That is not a surprise to anyone, since our mountains are the greatest winter playground in the world. But the Summer Olympics, kicking off in Rio this Friday, is also hosting many Coloradans, including one of the big stars of the last Summer Games.

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18 Coloradans will compete in Rio in the next few weeks. The most famous of them is swimmer Missy Franklin, who grew up in Centennial and was still a student at Regis Jesuit High School 4 years ago when she won 4 gold medals. Franklin, who always seems to be smiling, is expected to have another hoard of gold to get through US customs when she returns home this year. I guess we’d all always be smiling if we came in first all the time!

Anyone who has spent any time in our state will not be surprised to learn that Colorado is sending cyclists and runners to Rio. 4 Coloradans are on the US cycling team. The most likely medalist is Taylor Phinney, whose mom Connie Carpenter-Phinney won Olympic gold on a bike herself, and whose father Davis was also a professional rider. The Boulder High grad is a strong competitor in the time trial.

Banjo Billy wishes all Olympians a safe and fun time in Rio. And Missy Franklin, you can trade us a gold medal for a ticket on any of our tours!

When Locusts Attacked!

Back in the 1800’s, as people moved into what were then the western territories of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming, they encountered many difficulties in mere survival on the great plains. Droughts and floods were both an issue. And if there was no drought or flood, they might have to deal with a giant swarm of locusts, particularly a species called the Rocky Mountain Locust.
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The worst year for locusts was 1875. Although these members of the grasshopper family had certainly lived in the region for centuries, until white settlers started moving west and farming there was no record of them. As farmers began farming more land, locusts became a growing problem though the 1800s.

The “Year of the Locust”, as 1875 was called, actually started in August of 1874. Swarms of locusts attacked like dark black clouds, covering areas the size of California. And these bugs were not just eating grass and crops. They ate leather, wood, sheep’s wool, and sometimes even the clothes from peoples’ backs. One farmer is quoted as saying “They took everything but the mortgage!”.

So, why don’t we hear anything about locusts attacks these days? The answer is that, by 1902 the Rocky Mountain Locust became extinct. What killed them off is unclear, but likely a combination of overt efforts to eradicate them, and just that increased farming plowed up much of the land that had been their nesting habitat.

If you enjoy this kind of history, then you should definitely be taking the Banjo Billy tours. We love an unusual history story, and we do our best to tell them in the most fun way possible. And, we do on the coolest bus in town! YEEEHHHHHAAAAQWWWWW!!!!