Get yur ass to Fairplay this weekend
Get yur ass to Fairplay this weekend – or, if you don’t happen to have a burro of your own, then head over without one, as Fairplay’s 63rd annual Burro Days is an event not to be missed.In addition to the famed 30-mile pack burro race to the top of Mosquito Pass and back, there are many other attractions including gunfighters, llama races, kids’ rides, kids leading llamas through an obstacle course, a gold-panning booth, an arts and crafts show with 174 vendors, great food, live music for two days straight, a parade and even a cowboy-style church service.More than 10,000 people visit Fairplay for Burro Days each year.”It’s a great family event,” said organizer Julie Bullock. “A lot of people plan their vacations around it.”New this year are two screenings of “Haulin’ Ass,” a documentary film by Trevor Velin that follows three burro-racing Triple Crown competitors, and an outhouse race for cash prizes from Antero Septic.The animals are, of course, the biggest draw.”Saturday is all about llamas and Sunday is about burros,” Bullock said. “The llamas are really funny and the burros are just so intense; it’s such a great event on both days.”
Saturday’s llama-related activities start with the Llama Race at 11 a.m., in which one racer runs with his or her llama on a 3-mile course with natural and man-made obstacles including three river crossings. Each llama carries a total of 30 pounds but moves fast regardless, the best time being just over 21 minutes. Llamas are available to pre-registered members of the public who can run and “experience the abilities of the llama on a defined course.”The Llama Rama Race, also three miles, involves four people running with their llama at the same time, often clad in silly costumes, as a fundraiser for organ donation. Then there’s Llama Lunacy, where kids can practice leading llamas and alpacas through a small obstacle course. On Saturday at 10 a.m. in neighboring Alma, kids can also take part in a pack dog race with their pooch.
Sunday’s burro events are of a more serious nature, except for the outlaws and Old West lawmen shooting at each other in the street, that is. Burro racing is no easy undertaking, however. The long course, endured by 10-15 hardy souls and their well-trained burros each year, is approximately 30 miles. The burros are strapped with 33 pounds of gear including a pick, shovel and gold pan. Teams start off just under 10,000 feet in Fairplay and race up Mosquito Pass, topping out at over 13,000 feet for a total elevation gain of more than 3,000 feet before heading back down again, ideally running the whole time. Some of the competitors are in their 60s and have competed for decades.While the fastest time on record is 3:44:18, Texan Bobby Lewis and his burro, Wellstone, have outrun the competition repeatedly in recent years, their fastest time being 5:33:42. Sometimes people take as long as 10 hours to finish. The prize for first place is $1,000.”It’s a tough race,” Bullock said. “It’s more than a marathon and they have to run it with a burro. A lot of people think if they’re a good runner they can just borrow a burro and go, but then we have to go pick them up,” she said. “They do not ride the burros – ever,” she added, clearing up a popular misconception. The rules do state, however, that “the runner may push, pull, drag or carry the burro” if necessary.Chuckle if you will, but the added challenge of this year’s snowfields might require exactly that, and a burro getting stuck in a snowbank is not unheard of, said race coordinator Ralph Herzog, who headed up Mosquito Pass Tuesday to pack out a path across the snow.”The whole point of Burro Days is to celebrate the burros’ role in the lives of the miners,” Bullock said. “If they didn’t have the burros they couldn’t get the equipment up to the mines.” In the 1960s, miners repeatedly beat out their marathon-running competitors in the Fairplay race.According to the Burro Days website (www.burrodays.com), “Pack burro racing keeps alive that scenario of the miner’s excitement and rush to get off the mountain to register a claim at the assay office in town before the next guy, who had no problem claim jumping.”Today, runners and burros train together for the Fairplay pack burro race, which is one of three held on consecutive weekends including Leadville, where the course winds up the opposite side of Mosquito Pass, and Buena Vista. To win all three is to win the Triple Crown, a rare occurrence that transpired in 2010 when Bobby Lewis took the men’s title and Karen Thorpe won for women. To this day, no woman has taken first place in the Fairplay race, though Thorpe came in just one second behind Lewis last year.According to Herzog, the first female competitor raced in the early 1950s, but since all participants were required to have a mustache, pioneer Edna Miller cut her burro’s tail and made her own ‘stache in order to compete.In addition to the 30-mile course there is also a 15-mile course that turns around at Park City. To watch the races en route, meet up with Mosquito Pass Road (CR-12) through a side road and find a place to perch.
Steeped in Old West tradition, Burro Days is not only Fairplay’s biggest annual event, it is also its biggest fundraiser. The event nets $10,000-$13,000 each year, with funds going to Park County schools, whose mascot is the burro. Other local organizations benefit by hosting well-attended events like Saturday’s silent auction of hand-painted gold pans, Saturday night’s barn dance/BBQ and Sunday’s breakfast.Burro Days kicks off tonight with a free concert and fireworks at the Fairplay Beach. Over the weekend, be sure to pick up a “Get yur ass up the pass” T-shirt or baseball cap – because honestly, who doesn’t enjoy remembering good times had with funny, ass-related commemorative gear?
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