Low turnout at law enforcement appreciation event

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An event dedicated to honoring law enforcement that often draws dozens and sometimes hundreds to Castle Rock was so sparsely attended this year that organizers began stacking up chairs and tearing down vendor tables more than an hour before the celebration was scheduled to end.

The 5th Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day took place at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Feb. 23. Midway through the event, fewer than 30 people stood around the room, including members of the live band, vendors and organizers. There were no uniformed officers in attendance between 4 and 5 p.m. The event was scheduled to run from 3 to 6 p.m.

Bill and Linda Smutzer, of Castle Rock, attended in hopes of thanking law enforcement officers for their service, Bill said.

“We were just going to come for a little while, but I hate to leave now,” Bill said, explaining they didn't want to worsen the already low turnout. “We've met some of the police before, but we thought they might be here en masse.”

Officials from some agencies said they simply weren't aware the event was taking place.

“I didn't know anything about it,” Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley said the day after the event.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office also said the agency wasn't informed about the event.

Standing in the near empty hall, organizer Ron MacLachlan wondered if the event should have marketed better. He'd taken the information to the front desks of law enforcement agencies but could have called the sheriff directly, he said. The event was also posted to community calendars, such as the calendar on the Town of Castle Rock's website and the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce website.

MacLachlan lives in Denver and plans several law enforcement appreciation events in Colorado, including in Denver, Douglas County and Colorado Springs. He first began planning them in Denver in 2015 and runs Pro Police Rally Colorado.

MacLachlan said weather may have deterred some people from attending. Snow blanketed the Denver metro area that Sunday morning and was predicted to last through the evening, although clouds broke, and the sun came out in time for the event. MacLachlan said he started getting calls that morning from people who said the forecast would prevent them from coming. He is looking into holding the event later in the year in 2021 to avoid inclement weather, he said.

“All you guys who took the time to come out,” MacLachlan said when addressing the room, “I cannot thank you enough.”

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