Colorful Colorado Customs
- The University of Colorado, Boulder, and the rest of Colorado celebrate the life of Colorado's own cannibal, Alferd Packer, each spring. Alferd Packer was a gold digger who, in 1873 near the town of Breckenridge, killed and ate five companions to survive a blizzard. At the sentencing, the judge was reported to have said, "We had nine democrats in the county and you done ate five of them." He was then sentenced to forty years in prison.
Twenty-seven years ago, college students at the University of Colorado at Boulder renamed their student grill at the University Memorial Center after Alferd Packer as a joke about the quality of food served at the grill. They then started holding Alfred Packer Day as a way of remembering this unique Coloradan. The most notorious event held on Alferd Packer Day was the raw meat eating contest. The event has lost support in recent years and has been replaced by the hot food eating contest, where participants must eat a variety of spicy foods in a short period of time. Other popular events have included the "Al Packer" look alike contest, a belching contest, a pie eating contest, the "Chubby Bunny" contest, where students must fill there mouth with marshmallows and then repeat certain phrases, and other exciting events. While certainly not a hero in the eyes of these students, Alferd Packer has become a legend worth remembering.
- An elite group of people belonging to the "AdAmAn" (add a man) club climbs to the top of Pikes Peak on December 30th and 31st. Just after midnight on New Year's Eve, they set off fireworks that can be seen for hundreds of miles along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies and eastern plains to bring in each new year. The club adds only one individual to its ranks each year, hence its name. A pause in the trip up the mountain is dedicated to the "frozen five," who were stranded one New Year's Eve on the mountain. They returned several days later, however they took several months to warm up again. These five men (Ed Morath, Fred Morath, Fred Barr, Willis Magee and Harry Standley) founded the club and created the concept.
The climbing party of thirty members and guests leaves the trailhead of Barr Trial on Decemeber 30th and stays over at Barr Camp. On December 31st, mirrors are flashed at the timberline to relatives and friends back in Colorado Springs. The climb to the 14,100 foot summit is often in the bitter cold of wind chills of -50 degrees.
When the group takes to the mountain on the eve of the new millenium, they will be following the original 1922 route as a tribute to the club's five founders. Eighteen people will be making the trek for 1999 along with 12 guests. Something new for 1999's fireworks display, in honor of the last trek of the 1900s, will feature more than 150 fireworks at midnight, more than twice the usual amount.
After breaking with tradition in 1997 by inducting the first woman member, 1999 breaks from tradition again in that spouses and significant others will be able to take a bus to the summit to celebrate the year 2000 with club members.
For more information on the AdAmAn Club, visit the Pikes Peak AdAmAn Club, Inc.
- The Kinetics Sculpture Challenge draws a big crowd each year. Local teams create a people-powered craft, constructed mostly of cardboard, that is raced across the land and waters at Boulder Reservoir. The original course was 14 miles long but has been reduced to 4.2 miles. During the race, teams must face an obstacle course and a windsurf course.
The real fun lies in the creativity of the crafts. Team members often link their craft to a theme--complete with fancy names, costumes, and music. Team members have been known to bribe the judges because of the stiff competition. Some of the more recent themes include "Pharaoh's Flaming Assssp," "Rock the Dinosaur," "Lost Souls," and "Road Kill Grill." Sandy Sorenson, Kinetics' operations director, is a 5-year team veteran of the event. "I originally came to see the Kinetics as a spectator five years ago, and it was so wild and creative that I said I have to do this," she said. The race has turned into a day-long event accompanied by live music, food, mud volleyball tournaments, and hot air balloons.
- Besides being a major tourist attraction, Pikes Peak is home to the second-oldest foot race in America. The Pikes Peak Marathon is actually a 28.2-mile course that heads up and down the 14,110-foot mountain. The race is considered to be one of the most demanding marathons in the world. In 1982, Hulda Crooks, an 81 year-old, took the best time in her age group. Tired of hearing Johnny Carson complain about physical fitness, she sent her track shoes to the Tonight Show and told Johnny to get in shape. Hulda has since died at the age of 101 but her legacy lives on in the form of Crooks Peak, located near Mt. Whitney, a mountain Crooks climbed over two dozen times from age 66-91. She still retains the honor of being the oldest person to climb both Mt. Whitney and the 12,388 ft. Mt. Fuji in Japan. Her memoirs,Conquering Life's Mountains, were published in 1996.
- The first men to drive an automobile up Pike Peak took nine hours in 1901. Since then, driving up Pikes Peak has become an annual challenge. The Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb began in 1916 to promote the Pikes Peak Highway. Each July, auto racers travel up a 12.4-mile gravel course with 156 hairpin turns. It is the second oldest car race in America, behind the Indianapolis 500. The "Race to the Clouds" always draws big names in auto racing and big crowds.
- The Colorado Renaissance Festival is held each summer in Larkspur, Colorado. Visitors take a giant step backwards in time as they spend the afternoon being entertained by strolling minstrels, dueling knights in armor, and clowning jesters. Many people dress in fanciful Renaissance garb as they wander through the open-market shops, eat the famous drumsticks and other food, and listen to the Renaissance music being played. Colorado is lucky enough to be one of the few places in the country to get visited by this traveling group each year. The event is a popular way to spend a summer afternoon in Colorado.