Ah, April 20. The one day of the year when it seems like a good idea to hot box a parachute out on the old college quad. That is, until campus security comes snooping.
That’s the situation 20 or so Fort Lewis College students found themselves in nine years ago.
On April 20, 2007, an FLC student took a shaky video from his dorm room of a suspect rainbow-colored parachute puffed up on campus.
With a tour group 100 yards away, a campus security officer lifted the canopy, and a melee of students and smoke dispersed in every direction. It temporarily stunned the guard, who began a disoriented pursuit.
The video, posted days later on YouTube, immediately went viral. As of Tuesday, “4/20 Parachute Stoner Dash” had nearly 1.5 million views. The event, according to Dagga Magazine, a marijuana culture blog, was dubbed “one of the most historic moments in 4:20 history.”
April 20, an unofficial holiday for pot smokers, is generally regarded as a reference to 4:20 p.m., the time a group of high school students in California would meet to get high.
Joe Spigarelli, then a freshman at FLC, said when the idea was concocted in his dorm room, it was only suppose to be about five people.
Paul Blick, also in his first year at FLC, said one student known as a hippie who regularly participated in drum circles, for some reason had a parachute.
“It was kind of random,” said Blick, who works for a software analysis company in Durango. “We sealed the perimeter by sitting on the edge like you did in elementary school.”
Brit Schield was returning from work when she saw the inflated parachute. Also freshman at the time, she thought she’d be spontaneous.
“It was a full on hot box,” Schield recalled. “There was just a bunch of people from all walks of life in there.”
Then they heard someone poking around the parachute – and a police radio went off.
“All of us were dead silent,” said Schield, unable to contain her laughter. “It was a scary moment, for sure. We were in a freaking parachute. So right when we saw his shadow bend over, on cue we just bolted.”
Schield, wearing heels, ran behind a bush, composed herself and started walking back to her room as if nothing had happened.
Now a vice president of an insurance agency that specializes in insuring cannabis grow shops’ products, Schield said she laughs every time she watches the video.
“We were all in tune and paranoid at the same time,” she said.
Though the students evaded the security guard, not all got away unscathed. Mitch Davis, an FLC spokesman, said some left behind cameras and phones amid the haste of the mass exodus.
“Police were able to identify many of the people involved, and were able to make arrests for marijuana possession,” Davis said.
Jordan Smith, a freshman at the time, said the group had planned to roll joints and center the circle around a drain. That way, if cops arrived they could destroy the evidence and run.
“But somebody dropped a camera, and he took one photo, and it was of me,” she said.
Smith was ticketed and required to do community service. These days, she runs one of the largest marijuana companies in Colorado: Rocky Mountain High Dispensaries.
“I’ve grown up since then,” said Smith.
Despite Colorado’s legalization of marijuana in 2012, any future attempts to fill up a parachute with pot smoke on campus grounds would be dealt with in the same manner, Davis said. The campus is considered public, where it’s illegal to get high.
Regardless, Spigarelli said the Stoner Dash remains one of the most memorable college experiences. And he was even able to make a friend out of it.
“I ended up being friends with some of the people who were on that tour group,” he said. “They’d say that’s the whole reason they came here.”