I’ve attended this event several times now, and I can say without reservation that it is one of my favorite festivals in Colorado… and it’s fairly close to being my number one favorite.
Few events can boast a history as long as Burro Days. This July 28-29 is the 64rd year of this festival that celebrates the rich history of South Park Colorado. Long before the area was made famous by those wacky, irreverent cartoon characters, mining was king.
The two-day event attracts over 10,000 people to the small town of Fairplay, Colorado. The weekend is packed with free events such as llama races, dog races, musical acts, dancing, a Mountain Man Rendezvous and more. But the real attraction is the burro race held on Sunday.
Back in the olden days of South Park, the pack burro was the prospector’s best friend. As men sought their fortunes in the Rocky Mountains, a trusted burro was often at their side. These sturdy little animals carried the prospector’s tools and other provisions.
When the prospector made a find, he and his trusted burro would rush back to the nearest assay office to stake his claim. The Burro Days’ burro race reenacts this “race” back to the assay’s office to stake the claim before another prospectors found the potential “gold mine.’
Today, the racers’ burros must be packed with 33 pounds, and the racer runs alongside, hoping to direct the animal up and down the mountain as fast as possible. Of course, with a burro, this task involves a certain level of patience. In fact, the race’s rulebook reads, “No riding. The runner may push, pull, drag or carry the burro, [but] the contestant shall at no time progress except under his own power.”
In 1949, when the first official burro race was run, the prize was $500. Today the top racer wins approximately $1000, which according to writer Scott Schumaker, is about enough money to feed and care for a burro for a year.
The route has changed over the years, and currently runs from Fairplay’s Front Street to the top of Mosquito Pass and back. While there are burro races held in Leadville and Buena Vista, at nearly 30 miles, the Fairplay route is the longest.
Today’s racers come from all walks of life, from math professors to freelance writers, but they all have one thing in common, their love of a burro.
This free event is always held the last weekend in July. This year’s Burro Days is Saturday and Sunday (July 28-29, 2012), with a free Friday night concert at Fairplay beach kicking off the festivities. For a full schedule visit www.burrodays.com, and be sure to join the fun on Facebook.
All proceeds from Burro Days go to the Park County School District RE-2.
HeidiTown Tip: Don’t miss the South Park City museum when you visit Fairplay for Burro Days. It’s one of the Mayor’s favorites. Find out more at www.southparkcity.org or read my write up about this museum here.