If the usual bands, beers and BBQ of festival season are starting to blur together for you, try out one of Colorado’s more unique celebrations.
Start with Mike the Headless Chicken Festival (May 16–17, miketheheadlesschicken.org) in Fruita. Featuring a 5K race, car show and (of course) a Peeps and chicken wing eating contest, this festival celebrates a phenomenon that occurred back in 1945 when local Lloyd Olsen, chose a chicken for dinner. After chopping off the head, Mr. Olsen was surprised to see the chicken continue pecking, preening and wandering around the yard. The bird went on to live for almost two years without the benefit of a head—it set out on a national tour that took it to state fairs from New York to Los Angeles, inspiring a post-WWII nation with its determination and grit.
In another homage to odd animals, Burro Days (July 26–27, burrodays.com) has been an annual event in Fairplay since 1948. Over 10,000 people flock here to race donkeys and other pack animals over a 15 to 30 mile course. Challenging competitors to “get yur ass up the pass,” this festival celebrates the important role this beast of burden played in Colorado’s gold rush days. Official rules require every burro to be equipped with prospector’s paraphernalia which must include a pick, shovel, and gold pan.
Riding and roping have long been a tradition out west and perhaps you’ve been to one of the many rodeos held throughout the summer in Colorado. Bull riding and steer wrangling seem challenging enough events, but high heels and hemlines add a whole new dimension.
The Colorado Gay Rodeo (July 11-13, igra.com) is held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and offers people of all genders and sexual orientations a chance to compete for cash prizes in all ten typical rodeo events as well as a few “campier” competitions. Drag racing takes on a whole new meaning at this stereotype-breaking event.
Denver may have it’s Dragonboat Festival, but if you really want to get close to dragons, head to Crested Butte for the annual Vinotok Festival (September 14 – 20, cbchamber.com). The schedule of events includes Liar’s Night, when folks gather around to see who can tell the biggest whopper and the selection of the Green Man, the town’s most eligible bachelor. The culminating event is the mysterious Mumming and Trial of the Grump, in which old grievances can be aired (and eventually burned) after a dramatic duel between good and evil featuring maidens, mummers and a dragon. End your summer festival season by dancing around the campfire and giving thanks for all the fabulous, funky festivities Colorado has to offer.