Meet the Olympian who plays George Washington for Breckenridge’s July Fourth parade
For years, C.J. Mueller’s Fourth of July ritual included camping and skiing on Peak 10 before riding up and down the Breckenridge parade route on his motorcycle. The former Olympic speed skier, who moved to Breckenridge in 1970, has seen decades worth of Summit County Independence Day traditions come and go, including ones that have stayed such as the Red, White & Blue Fire Department’s water fight.
These days, Mueller has traded his motorcycle for a bike, and his skis for a tricorn, although he still makes it a priority to ski in the month of July. He just picks a different day to do it, as he now holds the responsibility of reading the Declaration of Independence dressed as George Washington, a task that he carries with high regard. We caught up with Mueller before the big day to see how he gets into that George Washington state of mind.
Summit Daily News: What is your role as George Washington, and how did you first get into it?
C.J. Mueller: The big thing is that several years ago a friend of mine, who at that time owned the Masonic Lodge there at the corner of Washington and Main … he was always impressed at the Fourth of July things he would go to where someone would read the Declaration of Independence. So he actually contacted the Backstage Theatre people and said, ‘I’d like find somebody, and I’ll buy them a George Washington costume if they would come to the front of the Masonic Lodge and read the Declaration.’ Well because I was on the Backstage mailing list, I got this email. … I called him up, and I’ve been doing it ever since, like six or eight years now. I put on the George Washington costume that he got, and I end up riding around on my bike before the parade, leading one of the waves of the Firecracker race … Then when the parade is over I read the Declaration.
SDN: Do you do anything to get into the George Washington state of mind?
C.J.: A little bit, yes. I try and read a little bit of history stuff … and read a little bit more about the whole revolution and all of the stuff that was going on back then with King George just so I’m a little bit more familiar with it, and it’s kind of fun to learn a little bit more before I go and do it. … Reading the Declaration I found out the very first year it’s very emotional. It’s really — fun isn’t the right word — it’s a really inspiring thing to do even if there was only five people there listening. People always come up afterward and say ‘Thanks for doing that, it’s really important.’ So it’s very emotional reading it. We don’t get a huge crowd, there’s usually between 50 to 200 people there listening, and listening very intently. It’s very emotional and really a fun thing to do; I really enjoy doing it. I used to go skiing every Fourth of July on Peak 10, but I’ve kind of gotten to where I will ski on different days now because I enjoy doing this so much.
SDN: You’ve been in the county for years, what’s your favorite memory from the Independence Day celebrations around town?
C.J.: It’s always fun to go and crash all of the realtor parties and get free food afterwards. I think the best memories are from the ’70s, when the Red, White & Blue Fire Department, they had this concession trailer that was only used a couple times a year and they would sell food out of it, and set it up right on Main Street, right at the corner of Washington and Main. They’d sell their food out of it and have their hose lines. The hose lines have been going on since before I moved to town, so that’s been going on forever. That’s a fun tradition to keep going.
I think probably my favorite memory is we used to go skiing in the morning — they used to not start the parade ’til 11 and there was no bike race. So we could go and ski from 7:30 in the morning to 9:30, we’d rush down to get on our motorcycles and we’d still be able to ride in the parade. … We’d ride up and down the parade. Sometimes there’d be three of us, sometimes there’d be 20 of us on motorcycles all greased up. We’d go up Peak 10 the night before, we’d camp out, we’d usually ski or run that night, then we’d ski a couple in the morning, come down for the parade and grease up and ride around the parade. We wouldn’t tell people we were in the parade, we’d tell people we are the parade.
Before the parade would start, we’d parade up and down the street waving to people, and then when it would start, whoever was leading the parade, we would escort the first vehicle. Then we’d come down with the parade, get up in the alley and then we’d race back to where it started and ride through the parade again. Sometimes we’d ride through the parade eight or 10 times.
Back when I was very single, I would take a lap in the parade, and I would pick a girlfriend up, she’d ride on the back one lap and then she’d have to get off, and I’d find somebody else. … Those memories have got to be the best I think.
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