The 1976 Denver Olympics?

co ski

With the Winter Olympics starting this week, it is a good time to revisit the wonderful 1976 Winter Olympics held here in Denver. Oh, wait, they were held in Innsbruck, Austria. But they were supposed to be held in Denver, until the voters in Colorado told the Olympics to “sod off”.

In 197o the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter games to Denver. Of course, since the Olympics include a lot of skiing (snowboarding did not exist then), the Olympics would also have to include mountain communities. This was at a time when the resorts and roads in Colorado were all much smaller than what you might see today. And the people in these communities were not too excited about the traffic and environmental damage that would ensue. This was at a time were environmental awareness was just starting to take hold. The first Earth Day was in 1970. Also, it would require the frugal taxpayers of Colorado to contribute to the building that would be required.

The people of the small towns that would be affected, and environmental groups got together to oppose holding the Winter Olympics. Led by a  34 year old state representative named Dick Lamm, an opposition movement comprised of young people concerned about the environment, and residents of the mountain communities formed a group called Citizens for Colorado’s Future (CCF). It lead the opposition to a ballot proposition opposing a ballot issue authorizing $5 million in bonds to be issue to fund the Olympics. The measure failed, with 60% of Colorado voters opposed. The Olympics were moved to Innsbruck, which had hosted the 1964 games.

Talk of hosting the Olympics has not died in Colorado. In the 1970’s Denver was still pretty much a small city all about cows and oil. Today it is a booming metropolis, with an active young population, a diverse economy, and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.  It would be an obvious site to host the Olympics, but with the costs associated with doing so these days, it would be a difficult sale to get voters to pony up the billions that would be necessary.

That doesn’t keep Colorado from being a Winter Wonderland. Come and see. And while your here, tour Denver and Boulder on one of our buses!


Ghost Tours Start Sunday!!!

BOO!!! It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling, and the spirits are rising all over Denver and Boulder. Banjo Billy’s legendary ghost tours start on Sunday. Come hear the stories that only Banjo Billy tells, which include things our customers and people who have worked in the buildings we talk about have told us. Also, the weird experiences of our Banjo team members in these buildings.


Tickets sell fast. In fact, some tours have sold out already. But we will also be adding tours later in the month around Halloween, so check back if the night you want is not available.

We are looking forward to scaring the pants off you again this October!

Hail Colorado…No, Really, We Get a LOT of Hail!

On Monday, May 8th a vicious hail storm went through north Denver, denting cars, breaking windows and flooding streets. It even attacked out Denver bus Daisy, who had all of her rear light broken.  Hail as big as golf balls, and even baseballs was reported, which is ironic because the storm caused 3 Banjo Billy employees to cut short a round of golf, and also caused the Rockies game against the Cubs that night to be postponed. The picture below is not snow, if is the amount of hail that fell that day.


This kind of hailstorm is not unusual in this part of the country. In fact, the Front Range and Eastern Plains of Colorado are part of a “Hail Alley” that creates weather conditions conducive to creating this type of storm. In fact, the front range gets an average of 10 days a year with hail (and 300 with sunshine!).

The cause is that the mountains sometimes cause an updraft of air of air. Clouds can contain water that is far colder that what we believe is freezing, but still in a liquid state. Once something causes that to form into a particle, if gathers more cold water into ice the longer it stays up in the cloud. And the updrafts help keep that little particle grow into a dangerous hailstone. So, if you see a really, really dark cloud approaching you in Colorado, either get inside or grab a helmet.

Daisy has been repaired, and is again taking people looking to laugh and learn on tours of Denver. Meanwhile, her sister Rosey was in Boulder, where it barely rained. Come visit our girls this weekend.

Cassini Enters the Rings of Saturn with a CU Instrument On Board

The Cassini Spacecraft is a testament to long term thinking. The craft was launched in 1997 and traveled for 7 years before entering the orbit of Saturn. It is now on the Grand Finale of it’s mission, having already changed what is known about our solar system. It will diving in and out of the area between the icy rings of Saturn and the planet itself once a week until, on it’s final orbit, it will enter the atmosphere of Saturn where it will transmit data to scientists until it burns up like a meteor.


As with so many NASA projects, there is a University of Colorado connection. Cassini carries an instrument called the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) that was built by the Laboratory for Atmosphere and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado. In the 13 years that Cassini has been orbiting Saturn and it’s large moon Titan, the data from UVIS has allowed scientists to learn more about the chemistry, clouds and energy of the planet and it’s moon.

Boulder has a reputation for being a town of weird hippies, but it is also a city of scientists. LASP is one of the leading space research centers in the world, and many NASA projects have a CU connection.

You can learn more about the weird, and the really smart, people of Boulder on the Banjo Billy Bus tour. Yee HAAAWWW Cassini!


Denver Open It’s Doors This Weekend

In days past, visitors to Denver would arrive by train at the beautiful Union Station in what we now call LODO. Today, visitors can also arrive via train, and train from Denver International Airport, at that same architectural beauty. This weekend, the Denver Architectural Foundation invites you to visit many of the great buildings in the Queen City of the West as part of Doors Open Denver.


Residents and visitors are welcome to explore Denver’s architecture. There will be over 60 buildings open for free, self guided tours, along with “insider” tours that require registration to attend ( and, for some, a fee). Free sites include places you may have visited like Union Station, Denver Central Library and the Elle Caulkins Opera House, along with many you may not, such as the Counter Terrorism Learning Lab on 12th Ave and the Sugarcube Building on Blake St.  Guided tours give you a behind the scenes look at Sports Authority Field and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. There are also guided walking and bike tours in various neighborhoods.

Of course, the best tour of Denver is on the Banjo Billy Bus, but we don’t take you inside any of the places we visit. So, it you have taken our tour and want to learn more about some of the places you saw, now is a good time. Of course, you might want to take our tour first!

4/20 is Coming Soon…and it’s not a big deal anymore!

To a certain group of people, 420, 4:20 and 4/20 have a special meaning. These people also tend to have Cheetos dust under their fingernails and tickets to a Grateful Dead tribute band concert. We thought we’d delve into the history of 420.


The number 420 has become strongly associated with marijuana smoking. How did this happen? It appears to have started with a group of California high school kids, who called themselves the “Waldos”, who would meet at a certain spot at 4:20 in the afternoon to get high. High Times Magazine picked up on this, and it spread throughout the pot smoking world.

Boulder and, to a lesser extent, Denver were until recently the site of large gatherings of cannabis connoisseurs for several years in the early 2000’s. Around 2000, groups started to gather on Farrand Field at the University of Colorado at 4:20 on April 20 to light up. The gathering grew larger every year swelling to about 10,000 people every year from 2008-2011. This was extremely disruptive to the University, causing traffic jams and class closures. So, in 2012 the University put barricades and campus police at every entrance to the campus.  At about this time, the party moved to Denver’s Civic Center park.

In 2014 Colorado became the first state to make marijuana legal for “recreational” use, meaning those wishing to buy some legally no longer had to tell a doctor they had “chronic pain”.  Several states have followed, and now it seems, there is no longer a need to gather and smoke pot as a form of protest. This has please most of the citizens of Boulder, except, of course, purveyors of pizza and burritos.

The Banjo Billy Bus does smoke, but that is just diesel exhaust from the engine, waiting to take you around Boulder and Denver so learn can hear our great stories.  Hope to see you soon!

Denver Boy Kyle Freeland To Start Rockies Home Opener

This Friday, the Colorado Rockies play their home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The weather is supposed to be beautiful for baseball, adding to the fun for the fans who will pack Coors Field to celebrate the hopefulness of a new season. And taking the mound for the Rockies on Friday will be 23 year old rookie pitcher Kyle Freeland. This is particularly newsworthy because Freeland grew up in Denver, enjoying Rockies games in Coors Field since he was old enough to walk.


Freeland was born in Denver, and graduated from Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School. Freeland then pitched for 3 years at the University of  Evansville, before being drafted by his favorite team in the first round in 2014. Friday’s game will be his first Major League start.

The Rockies play in Coors Field, which is one of the best ballparks in the country. Unfortunately, they have struggled the last 10 years to put a team on the field that is anywhere near as great as their park. But a new year brings new hope, and the Rockies will be sending a group of very young starting pitchers to the mound this season. Hopefully they can keep the team in the game until the Rockies offensive stars Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, and DJ LeMehieu put runs on the scoreboard.

Banjo Billy is rooting for a Rockies resurgence. YEEEEHHHAAAAWWWW ROCKIES!

Top Chef is Coming to Denver and Boulder

Colorado is known for skiing, outdoor sports, beautiful scenery, and now GREAT FOOD!!

Season 15 of the Bravo show Top Chef will be shot this Spring in Boulder, Denver and Telluride. The shows producers were looking for a place with great scenery and an up and coming food scene. Our gorgeous state was the obvious choice.


While Top Chef has not shot in Colorado before, there is already a Colorado collection. In season 5 of Top Chef the winner was Boulderite and CU graduate Hosea Rosenberg. At the time Rosenberg was chef at Boulder’s Jax Fishhouse. He now has his own restaurant in Boulder called Blackbelly, where he is known for doing wonderful things with pork belly.

Banjo Billy wishes best of luck to all the chefs in this year’s competition. And we’d greet the visiting crew of Top Chef with a hearty “YEEEHAAAWWW!!!”.

One last thing: April begins our Spring season. That means tours on Friday-Sunday in Boulder and Denver. Hope to see you soon.

Only A Few Months Left to See the Leanin Tree Museum

Do you like western art? If so, you may want to get to the Gunbarrel neighborhood of Boulder before the end of August to visit the Leanin Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden.


The art in the Leanin Tree museum is owned by Ed Trumble, who owns the Leanin Tree Greeting Cards company. The 92 year old Trumble has decided to auction his collection in Scottsdale, AZ later this year.

The collection consists of over 300 paintings and 200 bronze sculptures by a variety of western artists. The museum was started in 1974, when Trumble bought what was then farmland to build a facility to house Leanin Tree’s manufacturing facility, which shares the grounds with the museum. There is a gallery inside, and an outdoor garden with large metal sculptures like the one shown above. It’s a pretty hard place to miss, as many of the sculptures are visible from well outside the fence surrounding the property. You can also get a tour of the greeting card plant while you’re there.

Stop in and see this magnificent collection of western art while it is still together in Boulder. And let out a big “YEEEE HAAAAAA!” while you’re there. It’s very appropriate, just like it is on the Banjo Billy Bus.