Breck’s St. Patrick’s Day event crawls to a close after 27 years
BRECKENRIDGE – The party’s over.
After almost 30 years of celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, Breckenridge’s St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl is coming to a close. Event organizer Bobby Rianoshek cited the increased liability to the local bars and the organizing staff as the primary reason for the event’s demise.
For the past quarter century, throngs of people from throughout the nation have descended on the town’s watering holes to drink green beer and see old friends.
The event almost ended in 2002, when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday and bar and restaurant owners were too short staffed and busy to accommodate the event. That also was the year the town of Breckenridge purchased Shamus O’Toole’s Roadhouse Saloon on Ridge Street – the event headquarters – and remodeled it into a community theater.
No other bar was large enough to accommodate the hundreds of people who descend on town to try their chances at winning an array of prizes. And increasingly, bar owners cited liability among the reasons they didn’t want to participate.
The event had its fair share of detractors in the politically correct 1990s, too, particularly from visitors who complained about revelers darting out across the street and through stores, vomiting and urinating on town streets and in yards, and drunken driving.
In its heyday, 17 bars participated in the event, providing a shot of liquor and a 12-ounce beer to the racers. One year, more than 500 racers signed up to participate. Last year attracted almost 300 participants, ranging from 60-year-old women to Olympic athletes.
As Breckenridge’s reputation as a party town began the transformation to that of a family resort, fewer bars participated in the event, in which crowds of people ran from bar to bar and chugged green beer in a race against time.
Most people saw the event as a time to visit with friends after a long winter during which everyone is too busy to socialize. Others were in it for the race and to help the nonprofit organizations for which the event raised money.
In recent years, everything about the event has become smaller – from the number of bars and the volume of alcohol consumed at each establishment. Toward the end, eight to 10 bars participated each year, and participants only drank a six-ounce beer.
Drunken revelers won’t be the only ones missing out. Registration fees, which totaled about $2,000 each year, were donated to various nonprofit organizations. Some included the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Tipsy Taxi, the Sierra Club, Denver Rescue Mission and Friends of the River.
Rianoshek said he is sorry – and relieved – to see the event go. He cited its demise among the other raucous events that have fallen by the wayside in the past decade: the Ullr bonfire, which is now more of a large campfire than the conflagration it used to be; No Man’s Land parade; the April Fool’s Day Front Bowl Party and Fatty’s Golf Tournament.
Jackson Hogan, a one-time local who now lives in Reno, recalled that event: “You’d begin play on the porch of Fatty’s restaurant on Ridge Street and proceed to all other 16 bars in town,” he said. “No one ever got past the 14th hole bar or could remember their score past the 10th, so the fact that we didn’t have 18 holes was quite immaterial.”
Town Councilmember Greg Abernathy said he’ll miss the springtime ritual.
“It bothers me,” he said. “Any town with a couple of symphony orchestras should have a couple of good public drinking days every year. The Pub Crawl is something that always ought to be.”
Rianoshek said he’d hoped someone else would take over management of the event, although people are leery of being liable for anyone who might get injured or ticketed during the event.
“The new liquor board is taking things very seriously,” he said. “I don’t want to see anyone who participates run into thousands of dollars in extra expenses afterward. We’ve been lucky there haven’t been any accidents in 27 years.”
Others have suggested he transform it into an event where people visit coffee shops or retail stores and pick up vouchers or sales coupons.
“I’m kind of a stickler for tradition,” Rianoshek said. “I would want it to be a race through town.”
Longtime local C.J. Mueller said he’ll miss the event, even though he hasn’t had anything stronger than a Blue River cocktail – water – to drink in years.
“The last time the town decided to cancel it, we had it anyway,” he said. “We just walked into a bunch of bars, asked the bar owners that if someone stumbled in with a piece of paper if they’d sell them a beer for 25 cents, and we got 14 bars to participate. It’s crazy they’re letting this go by the wayside.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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