By Celinda Reynolds Kaelin 2006, 2010
What if the most famous person in Teller County is a Jackass. This is a question that is liable to stump future historians as they cull through the records of this century, and we will owe it all to Paco Bell.
The scandal actually began in 1996 when a group of Florissant residents gathered at a local coffee shop, bemoaning the fact that the County Commissioners and other authorities failed to take notice of their small community. What would generate respect? What could they do to command attention? The answer seemed simple enough; make Florissant’s Mayor a true jackass. I was one of the instigators at this meeting, and also held the office of President of Pikes Peak Historical Society. With all due authority, we therefore decided to hold elections at the annual Heritage Day Celebration in July. Only Burros were eligible for office, and each owner was required to make a nominating speech. Our burro, Birdie, a standard-size grey burro culled from the Cripple Creek herd, was elected Mayor that first year and went unchallenged for the next four years.
Then, a cute little miniature donkey moved into the neighborhood and challenged Birdie. His campaign slogan was “Little Dillion is much cuter than Celinda’s big ass” – and
he won by a landslide!
I will digress for a moment and explain some of the terminology here “Burro” is a term borrowed from the Spanish “borrico” meaning “donkey. This term was originally from the Latin, “burricus” which meant “small horse. Donkeys and burros are referenced in
biblical times as “asses They come in three different sizes; miniature (about
3 feet high), standard (about 4 or 5 feet high), and giant (about the size of a
small horse). Many burros bear a dark black stripe across their withers (shoulders) and down their back which looks like a cross. These burros are called “Bethlehem Burros” for their biblical role of carrying Jesus on his journeys.
Now, back to the Mayor of Florissant Unfortunately, Dillion’s administration was riddled with scandal. He was in office barely one week, when an escaped convict took several hostages at a local bar. Dozens of law enforcement officers swarmed through Florissant, and black-garbed SWAT teams loomed on every rooftop. And where was the Mayor? Dillion had left town! That’s when Paco Bell, a standard size, dark brown Bethlehem burro, decided to run for office in 2004. ; Adorable little Dillion was
a formidable opponent, so Paco Bell cleverly decided to run on the platform that
“The bigger the ass, the bigger the brain!
This election was not without its problems, however A thoroughly charming llama named Milo decided to throw his hat in the ring;. There were cries of foul play, accusing Milo of impersonating an ass, while he in turn accused election officials of fraud. When the dust settled, everyone was friends and Paco Bell held the office of
Mayor. Sheriff Kevin Dougherty swore him into office, and the media went into a
Frenzy. Newspapers across the country carried the story of the jackass Mayor,
and the Sheriff was inundated with calls from the press around the world.
Florissant finally garnered the attention it sought.
Harold and I had our hands full with calls requesting interviews for Paco Bell. He
appeared on “Balderdash” and then was featured on the DVD “American Treasure”
with Nicolas Cage. In February, 2006, he was featured in National Geographic
Kids. And in Februrary 2007, he and Birdie will appear in “Cowboy U” on
Television. Of course, the topper was his appearance on Martha Stewart’s show
on September 15, 2007 (copies of this appearance are available at the Pikes Peak
Historical Society Museum)
Martha had seen the National Geographic story on Paco, and was enchanted. I received a call from her producer in July, 2006, inviting Harold, Paco Bell, and I to New York to tape the show. Unfortunately, I had just broken my arm, and was in too much pain to travel anywhere. Martha did not want to postpone Paco’s appearance, however,
and so it was arranged to make a video of him here in Florissant.
and Steve Blevins of 1:Cor Productions donated their services, as members and
friends of the Pikes Peak Historical Society and officials (Bob Eichman, Keith Wagner, and Crystal Blunt) from Park State Bank gathered at the museum on September 2 to film Paco Bell officiating over the “purchase” of the new museum. Unfortunately, much of the video was edited out, and only a short clip made into Martha’s show. She called me on September 8’th and we taped my interview for her “live” show on the September 15, 2007.
Unfortunately, her producers gave me strict instructions that I was not to say a word to the press until after the fact. And so Paco Bell received a glorious 4 and ½ minutes of fame on national TV, and Florissant basked in his glow.
Through the years, Paco continued his work on behalf of the Pikes Peak Historical Society. Each year, he worked hard at the Schwan’s Fundraisers, donning his Uncle Sam’s hat and greeting visitors at the Schwan’s truck. Sadly, on Saturday, April 23, 2011, Paco Bell passed away. We’re not exactly sure of his age, but his previous owner had him when he was a little boy, so he was probably over 50 years old.
He will be missed and remembered for his work on behalf of the Florissant community.
By Celinda Reynolds Kaelin 2006, 2010