Paonia’s Cherry Days Parade has been a homey lineup of rodeo queens, 4-H floats, tractors and veterans for more than a century — until it became the scene of a human vs. military tank protest this week.
A standoff between a sign-wielding hairdresser in flip-flops and an anti-aircraft tank during the annual parade held each Fourth of July has generated social-media buzz about comparisons to China’s Tiananmen Square protests and the iconic image of a lone protester standing in front of a line of tanks.
This time it was hairdresser and former town council member Sid Lewis stepping alone in front of — and temporarily halting — a line of rumbling military vehicles as they passed the judges’ platform in downtown Paonia, a small farming and coal-mining town in the North Fork Valley.
“I thought it would be a good chance to speak up about democracy,” Lewis said, a day after his parade protest. Lewis was a longtime Steamboat Springs resident well known as a women’s hair stylist and a road bike racer.
The tank with two mounted 40 mm guns pointing down the parade route is owned by Bill Koch, a billionaire energy magnate who also owns Oxbow Mining Co., Gunnison Energy Corp. and a growing list of ranches across Delta, Pitkin and Gunnison counties. Koch is the brother of Charles and David Koch, who are known for their huge financial support of conservative causes.
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