Seven Events That Made Fort Collins Famous Around The Country
For people that live in Northern Colorado, most just think of Fort Collins as another city, perhaps even just "home."
Whenever I travel and someone asks me where I'm from, it's usually about a 50/50 on whether or not I answer "Fort Collins" or "Denver." Usually, I'll answer "Denver" if I don't feel like chatting or trying to explain where exactly Fort Collins is located in relation to Denver. And a spoiler to people who have never been here, or Denver for that matter, no, we are not in the mountains. Only half of Colorado is mountains, the other half is the plains. But I digress.
But for the more on top of news and current events type folks across the United States, if you do mention you're from Fort Collins, they likely have heard of it before for one reason or another. Here are seven events, over the last 50-ish years, that have gained Fort Collins national or even worldwide media attention.
Summer of 1989 - The Rise and Fall of Debbie Duz Donuts
Debbie did donuts in Fort Collins, for a minute anyway. Though to be honest, I'm not sure there was even an actual "Debbie." Regardless, the national media descended upon Fort Collins when a topless donut shop was opened out by Mulberry and I-25. Even Geraldo Rivera, at his peak Geraldo-ness, got in on the act by doing an episode of his show here.
And you think the grand opening of a new Krispy Kreme could be a big deal here.
CBS4 in Denver has a pretty good write up detailing the entire history of the Rise and Fall of Debbie Duz Donuts, which some say, was the early inspiration for what ultimately became the "Free the Nipple" movement in Fort Collins.
June 2012 - High Park Fire west of Fort Collins
Who doesn't remember how terribly eery the skies over Fort Collins were during the High Park Fire? Smoke was in the air for weeks, ash fell over the city of Fort Collins and the constant whir of helicopter blades and planes were overhead as one of the largest wildfires in Colorado history burned more than 87,000 acres.
The fire was started by a lightning strike and was declared 100% contained after burning for more than 20 days.
October 15, 2009 - The Balloon Boy soars over Colorado - or actually doesn't.
Perhaps one of the most famous news stories to come out of Fort Collins, probably ever, is the day the world thought little Falcon Heene was in an oddly shaped balloon that became untethered from their back yard in Fort Collins and proceeded to fly south like a duck in winter. News helicopters followed it for roughly 50 miles, when it ultimately crashed in a field northeast of Denver International Airport. And we all watched live on TV as sheriff's deputies ran up to the balloon on the ground and tore it open only to discover that nothing - and nobody - was inside.
Speculation began running rampant, wondering if the 6-year old had fallen out along the journey, only to be found hiding in the attic of his garage later in the evening. The subsequent events that unfolded over the course of the ensuing days revealed an elaborate hoax to gain media attention in hopes of scoring a reality show. Little Falcon's parents ended up in hot water and hit with criminal charges.
October 2010 - The Murder of Psychic Kay and manhunt for her husband
If you were around Fort Collins before Harmony was developed into what it is today, there used to be an old pink house on the northwest corner of Harmony and Timberline Rd. The quirky house and business inside it belonged to a woman named Kathy Adams, better known as Psychic Kay, and the house was demolished in 2013.
Adams was found murdered in October 2010, her body located in a ravine off Highway 36 near the Larimer-Boulder county line. Her husband, John Marks Jr. almost instantly became the prime suspect, as Adams had told family members she was leaving him shortly before she went missing.
While the search for the suspect dominated the news for days, after being spotted in numerous locations around Northern Colorado following the discovery of Psychic Kay's body, Marks eventually turned himself in at what used to be the Perkins Restaurant at Crossroads Blvd. and Clydesdale Pkwy. That location is now a Giordano's Pizza.
November 1991 - Colorado State University Professor Tom Sutherland released after being held hostage in Beirut for more than six years.
Perhaps one of Fort Collins' most famous residents of all time was Thomas Sutherland, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. He ultimately became the Dean of Agriculture at American University of Beirut in Lebanon. There, on June 9, 1985 he was kidnapped by Islamic Jihadists and held hostage for 2,353 days, second only to another American hostage, Terry Waite.
Upon his release, he returned to Fort Collins where he lived until he passed away in 2016. Much of his family is still in the area today.
May 1970 - Colorado State University's Old Main building burned to the ground
On May 8, 1970, protests were held on the Colorado State University campus, as President Richard Nixon had just announced that the United States had invaded Cambodia. While a few thousand students and protesters were gathered at the South College Gym for a concert and a debate, a fire was started at the Old Main building on campus, which used to stand at the southwest corner of College Ave. and Laurel St.
By the time firefighters arrived, the entire building was engulfed in flames and ultimately was completely destroyed overnight. While the blaze was officially declared the work of an arsonist, nobody was ever arrested and whoever started the fire remains a mystery to this day.
May 22, 1993 - Rush Limbaugh invades Fort Collins for Dan's Bake Sale
Syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh had a listener in Fort Collins who appealed to the radio talker for a free subscription to his newsletter, as a caller on the air no less. Rush, being Rush, essentially told him there wouldn't be any freebies and maybe he should hold a bake sale to raise the funds to be able to afford the subscription.
One thing led to another, the buzz about the event exploded and more than 80,000 people descended upon Old Town Fort Collins for "Dan's Bake Sale" - which ended up not being as much of a sale of baked goods as a political rally attended by Rush Limbaugh himself. The event marked the beginning of a meteoric rise in popularity nationally for the radio host, who passed away in February, 2021.
What other big events do you remember happening in the City of Fort Collins?