The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors have announced the return of the popular Fourth of July "wet parade" for the first time since 2019, and have renamed it the 'Jack Fowler Memorial Fourth of July Water Parade' in memory of the former Pueblo West fire chief who started the tradition exactly 30 years ago.
At its Monday, April 10 Metro District Board of Directors meeting, all five directors signaled their approval for the parade to return. The announcement stemmed in part from a push by residents to bring the parade back, which has attracted an estimated 15,000-plus visitors to Pueblo West each Fourth of July along the Joe Martinez Blvd. parade route and has been dubbed 'the largest public water fight west of the Mississippi River.'
"I've been contacted by numerous residents asking what needed to be done to bring the wet parade back," said Director Nick Madero, who chairs the Metro District special events committee. "There have been issues in the past that have prevented the wet parade from returning, but we will make every effort to ensure the safety of everyone who attends the parade.
As 2023 marks the 30th year since the beginning of the parade in 1993. During that year's annual Fourth of July parade, the temperature barely touched 100 degrees, and everybody in attendance seemed slowed by the dry Independence Day heat.
The late Jack Fowler, the chief of what was then the Pueblo West Volunteer Fire Department, stood on the back of a pumper truck, and in a gesture of solidarity against the baking sun, sprayed down parade-goers with an unexpected torrent of water from the fire hose.
The next year, some paradegoers were prepared to be doused by Fowler once again. They shot back at him with their water guns, and the parade grew from that moment.
Fowler passed away in 2001, and his role in the start of the tradition led to the decision to officially rename the wet parade in his memory.
"It's an appropriate tribute to name the parade after Chief Fowler," said Metro District communications manager Anthony Sandstrom. "He started it all with a humble spray of his fire hose on a hot day, and the story of the parade's beginning has become Pueblo West legend. The tradition of this parade, and the man who started it, should never be forgotten."
Over the years, however, the growth of the parade has presented issues, mostly having to do with safety. This year, to ensure safety at the parade, area businesses have pledged financial support to provide security throughout the parade route and enforce a zero tolerance policy for individuals participating in dangerous behavior that could injure fellow parade goers. Historically, these have included frozen water balloons, high-powered water cannons and power washers, and water laced with salt and chemicals that are meant to burn people's eyes.
"It's unfortunate, but if even a few paradegoers engage in dangerous behavior, it may result in the entire parade once again going away because it would be irresponsible for Pueblo West to sponsor a dangerous event," said Christian Heyn, interim district manager. "That's why every effort is being made to have a strong security presence at the parade, and more importantly, we're asking the entire community and every visitor to get the word out to friends and family to discourage any bad behavior."