By Pamela Ward
Come July, in the mountain village of Cuchara, Diane Broce is the No. 1 topic of conversation: “What on earth will Diane Broce be?”
The Cuchara 4th of July parade has featured a flamboyant Diane Broce nearly every year since 1971. The retired real estate agent has masqueraded as The Queen of England, a Walking Outhouse, a Pole-Dancer and The Bride Left At The Alter. She’s been Lady GaGa, Edward Scissorhands, Captain Sparrow the Pirate & the black sheep of her own Nash family reunion.
The Cuchara Fourth of July parade got its start around 1968 at the urging of local merchants Diane and Dave Baldwin. “It was all kids on bicycles. It was very sweet,” said Ms. Broce. “I got involved (in 1971) because Diane Baldwin asked me. She said, ‘I just have dogs and kids on bicycles. PLEASE participate.’”
“So, I thought, OK, I’ll just go as the biggest whore in the valley.”
Everybody braced for her appearance, and there she strolled, between the kids on bikes and the dogs on leashes, dressed like a pioneer woman in sunbonnet. She carried a big hoe. Her play on words – carrying the biggest hoe in the valley – earned her laughs and urgings to please participate again.
Ms. Broce, who turned 88 in January, pulls her costumes together based on local or national events. But the events of July 3, 1994, led to one quick change-up. The Cuchara Inn, next to today’s Cuchara County Store caught fire overnight and local volunteer “cowboy firefighters” bravely fought the blaze. The morning of the 4th, Ms. Broce dressed up as a cowboy and fired her six-shooter water guns, dousing parade-goers.
Other appearances have reflected local events. In 1995, the mountain village lost its trash pick up service, a headache of a problem that lasted for three years. Ms. Broce showed up as a plastic trash bag filled with tin cans. “I rattled when I walked. Thank God it was a cool day. Otherwise I would have probably perished that day.”
Another year, when the water district required cabin owners to pay a sum to convert their old septic systems, she showed up as a walking outhouse.
“I was driving through Walsenburg and I saw a refrigerator box on the sidewalk. I thought, “That’s going to be my costume.”
Twice she has appeared as Lady Godiva on a white steed, in her white bodysuit with flowing white hair. Why twice? “Everybody loved it!”
She recalls, “People would say ‘I thought that was my favorite thing you did, but this year’s is the best yet!’”
Suzanne Pierce, who grew up vacationing summers in Cuchara and eventually retired there, said she, like many, always looks forward to Diane’s surprise entry. She can’t name just one favorite. “So many of them,” she said, “like when Kim (Diane’s daughter) and Diane and Diane’s granddaughters went as conjoined quadruplets.” Her great-granddaughter, baby Mykah made her first parade appearance in her mother’s arms.
In 2001, Ms. Broce appeared in one of her most memorable outfits – Cruella from the movie 1001 Dalmations, and brought along her little poodles, which she painted with Dalmation spots. “All the kids loved it and they all wanted their pictures made with me,” she said.
In 2002, the valley was in the midst of a terrible drought, and Ms. Broce showed up as a rain-dancing Native American princess with umbrella. At the end of the parade, it rained and sleet fell in the mountains above the village. She came home to find many telephone messages of thanks. “You’re thanking the wrong person,” she told everyone.
In July 2003, in the hospital where she had been since May, she realized she just might not make the parade. Released just in time, she “stole” her ugly open-back hospital gown, and her daughter, Kim, playing the role of nurse, rigged her up with plastic tubing and IVs hooked to tanks of “Rum” and “Tonic.” The open back of her gown revealed a bountiful backside – which was stuffed and plumped to laughable levels.
Just one year Ms. Broce did not make an appearance. She had fallen for a handsome fellow named Sergei who asked her why on earth she was masquerading in a silly parade. “You are making a fool of yourself,” he told her.
She got so many calls expressing disappointment at her absence that she swore she would never miss another.
2009 was the year of The Pole Dancer. She found someone to weld a pole to the bottom of a flat-bed trailer and rode the parade route to the music of The Stripper. People kept running up to the truck and handing her money, which she slipped into her bra.
The next day she attended a meeting of the Cuchara Chapel Board, where the Rev. Don Pike commented tongue-in-cheek on her colorful stripper appearance. “I pulled the cash ($24) from my bra right then and there and put it in the chapel collection box,” she laughed.
About 10 years ago, dressed up as the Queen of England, riding in a royal purple throne in the back of a her cousin Tom Waller’s pickup truck. She waved “the queen’s wave” to her constituents, although some noted that it appeared that she had the wrong finger up.
That was another almost missed performance. She badly wrenched her back in the days before the 4th while wrangling a heavy wet rug. Her friends and neighbors, including artist Shawn Bridges, Molly Bridges, Margie Heep others created the throne where she could just ride. All she had to do was don her gown, powder her hair gray and wave.
Here we are, at Diane Broce’s 50th Anniversary Cuchara 4th of July parade, and the question, of course, is: What On Earth will Diane Be?
She just laughs and says, “I LOVE a parade!”