Even though Veterans Day didn’t earn national holiday status until 1938, we’ve now been commemorating the anniversary of the last day of World War I for an entire century. Today, we continue to celebrate the day as we have for 100 years: with parades and festivities that honor the country’s fallen soldiers and active military members.
Here in Colorado, which is home to nearly 400,000 veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and during peacetime, hosts celebrations all weekend long. Here are six ways you can participate in and around Denver.
Annual Denver Veterans Day Parade and Festival | November 9
Hosted by the Colorado Veterans Project, a nonprofit that raises awareness and funds to support local veterans, Denver Veterans Day is a series of events that take place over the course of the weekend before the national holiday. The activities kick off with a late morning parade that bisects Civic Center Park and features various military conflicts from the last three centuries, beginning with the Revolutionary War. From there, the festival begins in Civic Center Park, complete with food trucks, vendors, and live music by Denver-based Americana and bluegrass band MicroGrass and rock cover band Classic Vinyl.
Full Battle Rattle Deli | November 9
Chow down on a breakfast bagel or New-York-style deli sandwich from the Full Battle Rattle Deli food truck, owned and operated by U.S. Army veteran Michael Gropper. The truck first opened for business in mid-October and is fully staffed by veterans participating in Gropper’s Culinary Arts Bootcamp for Veterans, which trains vets for culinary jobs and helps them transition back into everyday life. The truck can be found at the Civic Center Park festival on Saturday afternoon, but otherwise, they set up shop on Colfax just west of Moline Street on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays (but will be closed on the 11th.) Can’t make it but want to help out? You can make a financial contribution to their permanent kitchen fund or help cover a Boot Camp student’s tuition.
Annual Denver Veterans Day Run | November 10
The second half of the weekend festivities begin early Sunday morning with 5K and 10K races that meander along the paths of City Park. Veteran participants get a $5 registration discount and kids 12 and under can run for free. If you choose to partake in the 10K, you can challenge yourself further by joining the “Rippetoe Rucksack Challenge,” which requires wearing a 25-pound rucksack or backpack. The event was formed in honor of Metro State College alumnus and Operation Iraqi Freedom Army Captain Russell Rippetoe, who was killed in action in the spring of 2003. To date, the Denver Veterans Project has raised more than $300,000 to benefit local veterans and veteran organizations.
Veteran-Owned LoDo’s Bar & Grill Honors Fallen Veteran | November 11
While on tour in Iraq from 2007–08, Matt Runyon, co-owner of LoDo’s Bar & Grill, served in the U.S. Army alongside AJ Arqueza, who passed away in an accident in July. In honor of Arqueza and in order to raise money for Arqueza’s family, Runyon and fellow owners Kenneth Monfort and Jason Marcotte will host a fundraiser on Veterans Day at their downtown LoDo’s location. For $25, you can purchase a ticket that comes with food served all evening long and access to live music and DJ sets beginning at 4 p.m. All proceeds from the event will be donated to a trust for Arquez’s wife and two children.
Free Day at Denver Botanic Gardens on York Street | November 11
Visit the Denver Botanic Gardens’ York Street location, where you can explore dozens of gardens and see plants from around the world for free on Monday—their last free day of the year. In addition to honoring veterans through free admission on Veterans Day, the Gardens also have a veteran program partnership between Chatfield Farms and Veterans to Farmers, a Denver-based nonprofit that helps “turn protectors into providers.” Through the program, veterans take part in a 21-week program that teaches key farming, community engagement, and business management techniques.
Dumb Friends League Free Adoptions for Veterans and Military Actives | November 11
Few things are more heart-melting than seeing military members reunited with their pets. And thanks to the Dumb Friends League, making those initial connections just got easier: all adoption fees for cats and dogs will be waived for veterans and active military members on Veterans Day. Both the Leslie A. Malone Center in Denver and the Buddy Center in Castle Rock will be open for adoptions throughout the day. And if you’re not in the market for a pet or don’t have neither veteran or active military status, you can still contribute to the League by volunteering. Opportunities can be found here.