Derda recognized during last run as Broomfield Days emcee

·5 min read

Sep. 22—Thousands of community members lined the street for the annual Broomfield Days parade Saturday as the scent of fried dough carried in the breeze. The annual weekend festival returned this year, bringing life back to Midway Park.

For many, the parade is synonymous with resident emcee Paul Derda. Saturday was Derda's 40th — and final — run at narrating the beloved parade, something he described as bittersweet.

"Having done it for 40 years, I'm seeing kids that I watched march in the parade when they were in grade school, their kids are now marching in the parade as cheerleaders, as band members. ... For me, that is true joy," Derda, who served as Broomfield's director of parks and recreation from 1978 to 2002, said Tuesday.

While it's difficult to gauge how many people attend Broomfield Days over the three-day event, Community Events Coordinator Kay Gazaway previously said it's estimated 20,000 individuals filter in and out of the festival each year, and this year's Broomfield Days "did feel as full and happy as years past." Sixty-nine groups walked in the parade, Gazaway said, and Derda had an anecdote for each group.

"Saturday was like a dream for me," Derda said. "Because I saw people I hadn't seen in so long. Kids who came up to me who I've known from high school and they're parents now and they have kids in college now. The best part is, I could still remember who they were."

In the middle of the parade, Director of Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Clay Shuck came up to Derda and told him something was going on and the parade needed to be stopped, so Derda announced to the crowd there was a glitch and to hang tight.

Then, the Broomfield High School marching band, the poms and cheer teams performed The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie," one of Derda's favorite songs.

"I tried to sing but I couldn't, I was too choked up," he said. The students presented to him a giant banner signed by each of them.

Shuck then presented Derda with another surprise — a golf vest that reads "Mr. Broomfield" on the front and has decades of Broomfield Days logos patched on the back to commemorate his 40 years. Derda said he had no idea the gifts were coming, and added he's blessed to live in a community such as Broomfield.

In 1981, Derda's first year as emcee, Anne Crouse rode as grand marshal. This year, Anne's son, Pete Crouse, was selected as grand marshal.

"Crouse grand marshals bookended Paul Derda's run as emcee at Broomfield Days," Pete Crouse said Saturday after the parade. "It couldn't be a more appropriate Broomfield story."

Martha Derda, Paul's wife, said Broomfield Days is everything he loves.

"Paul's just happy. He's really a hometown person and that's what it's all about," she said. "It's been so fun for us to see how it's changed and grown, from maybe like 100 people there to, I don't know, maybe 30,000 the other day?"

While it was emotional for the Derda family to watch Paul Derda emcee for the last time, Martha Derda said they'll still attend Broomfield Days in some capacity.

"He's always been able to speak or perform, he loves people. That part of it, it was sad to have that part of it over," she said. "... We all got choked up at one point or another, the whole family, but I think it's happiness, not sadness. Just so happy that he's been able to give to the community, because he thrives on that."

Paul Derda said he's thought about retiring from the gig the past couple of years.

"Then last year we didn't have (Broomfield Days), so it's like, you know what, that's an omen, this should be my swan song," he said, adding how special it was to emcee for the final time alongside former Deputy City and County Manager Kevin Standbridge on Saturday, who retired this year.

As the first members of the parade crested the hill coming down Midway Boulevard, Paul Derda said he was reminded of the Broomfield Days in 2001, which was held five days after 9/11. He said that's the only other time he thought there wouldn't be a Broomfield Days aside from last year's festival, which was forced to adapt to a virtual event because of the pandemic. Paul Derda said staff in charge of the 2001 Broomfield Days asked the City Council for direction on whether or not to continue with the event, and the Council told them to go on with the event for the sake of community.

"We lined Midway from stem to stern up over the hill, all the light poles with American flags," he said, adding that every first responder who wasn't on duty marched in that parade. "They came up over the hill and I'm announcing, and I'm very sentimental anyway, and I just lost it. ... The fact that this was my 40th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and we did that and we did the moment of silence to people we lost to COVID ... the moment of silence, you could hear a pin drop. It was extremely, extremely emotional for everybody."

For the Derdas, events such as Broomfield Days helps the growing community keep its hometown feel.

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2021 Broomfield Days parade winners

* High School Spirit: Broomfield Poms

* Elementary School Spirit — Birch Bulldogs

* High School Band — Legacy High School

* Car and Cycle — Broomfield Bike Club

* Float Civic — Iwo Jima Float/Marine Corps League

* Float Religious — Nativity Faith and Reason

* Youth Marching — Colorado Conservatory of Dance

* Adult Marching — Joyful Journeys

* Float Commercial — Broomfield FISH

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