This is the fourth time Jim and I have gotten to
Leadville in time for the annual Boom Days celebration, held two weeks before
the 100-mile trail run. It is a lot of fun to people-watch. It is more fun to
participate in some way, such as marching in Saturday's parade with other LT100
runners or running several blocks up and down Harrison Avenue with a borrowed
We've done the former (marched in the parade) but not the
latter (run a burro).
If Jim had been there this morning, I would have done
the burro thing. But he was out running around Turquoise Lake on part of the
LT100 race course. No use running
with a burro if no one I knew was there to see it!
This entry will be mostly a photo essay with a variety of
shots taken yesterday and today during Boom Days. Both of us attended
some of the events on Saturday. I was "alone" with the hordes today, happily
taking photos of people having fun while Jim was out having his own fun running.
First, a bit of history about Boom Days.
Pre-World War II celebrations in Leadville were called
Tabor Days, after one of the town's most famous residents, Horace Tabor. The name was later
changed to Boom Days and featured events that honor both the area's mining
history and western heritage. This is the 56th celebration of Boom Days and the
58th year of burro racing
Each year the event gets bigger. In 2005, a rodeo was
added. We happen to be camped out right next to the second annual rodeo, which wasn't planned. But we
don't mind the sounds of cattle or country music or the events announcer. It's all
part of the fun of Boom Days. At least we aren't right next to the mining
competition with all its hammering and drilling!
Those mining events actually go back 123 years,
when the first drilling matches were held in 1885. In 1896, a huge Gunnison
granite rock was donated for drilling matches. It is considered the hardest rock
in Colorado. South of town on Hwy. 24 is an old mine with dozens of painted
rocks used in previous competitions. I keep forgetting to stop to take a photo
of them. Below is a photo of this year's rock before
the drillers got to it:
Leadville's population triples during Boom
Days. Former residents return and people visit from all over the state. Cyclists
and runners like us who come from all over the country (and world) who
are out here acclimating for races also enjoy the festivities. Some folks dress up in
19th Century garb to lend more authenticity to the event, such as this gentleman we
remember from prior years who relishes his role as "Wyatt Burp:"
He's been known to get into "gunfights" on Harrison Avenue with "hooligans" who
are also in attendance during Boom Days.
I'll highlight several of the events I photographed from
Saturday and Sunday below. In addition to these events were the No O²
(love the name!) 5k and 10k races,
softball tournament, gun show, pancake breakfast, spaghetti dinner, dance, kids'
events, pie-eating contest, egg and balloon events, gold panning, and musical
pies, which is played like musical chairs.
Unfortunately, they don't have the outhouse races any more.
Those were fun!
EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE
Since Jim and I missed the big 4th of July
parade in Silverton, we thought it'd be fun to watch the Boom Days parade
this year instead of helping LT100 runners and cyclists carry the race banner, as we've done before.
We found a spot to sit on the shady side of
the street yesterday morning and enjoyed the show for over an hour:
multiple flyovers by three 1943 North American AT-6 Texan airplanes,
modern and antique fire trucks,
high school bands from as far away as
a horse with a painted hand print on its rump,
crazy Shriners and their wheelie cars, little
bitty convertibles, motorcycles (and an excellent band),
even the politicians who were soliciting votes
in upcoming local elections. [That's LT100 co-race directors Ken Chlouber and
Merilee O'Neal (yellow hat) and Ken's wife in the white hat. He's running for
the Colorado House of Representatives.]
It was typical small-town America with a
As we were wandering around after the parade, we saw one of our
ultra running friends from North Carolina, Joe Lugiano. Jim's seen Joe up on
Hope Pass several times the last two weeks, training hard for LT100.
Joe's wife, Hannah, will be arriving in a few days to crew for him
during the race.
ANYTHING GOES AT THE CAR
After the parade, about two dozen show cars, some authentic
antiques, were lined up along Harrison Avenue for inspection. For a $15 entry
fee, people could display their cherished two- or four-wheeled vehicles - any
make, model, or year. Here are a couple of them.
I believe this is a 1942 Ford sedan. Please correct me if
I'm wrong. [Note the fella in the green shirt. There's a graphic of a bride and
groom on the front. Underneath it reads, "Game Over." We thought that was pretty funny.]
Jim was interested in this '57 Chevy. He used to have a
'58, but says it "didn't look anything like" this show model!
ARTS, CRAFTS, AND *JUNQUE*
Each year seems to bring out more and more arts and crafts
exhibits at Boom Days. Several blocks of Harrison Avenue, the main drag in
Leadville, are blocked off for
various street events, food vendors, and for people to move freely about. Areas
on Fifth and Sixth Avenue are reserved for the eighty crafts booths.
Can you imagine any setting more scenic than this for a
booth, with Mt. Massive as a backdrop?
It was fun to watch people try on hats from New Zealand
get their faces painted, and laugh at the funny clock faces designed for every
profession and hobby (except running!) that you can think of:
I forgot about reflections in the glass when I
took the photo below of "Dog Time." See my fingers holding the camera?
I MEANT to do that!
I really wanted to get one of the "retirement" clocks for
my brother, but it was too pricey: $45.00. (Not that Bill isn't worth every penny. We
just don't exchange gifts any more.) Instead of numbers, every hour except 12
said "Saturday." At the top was "Sunday." A couple of times I've joked to him
that "every day is Saturday when you're retired." Being much more religious than
Jim and I are, Bill quickly retorts, "Except for Sunday."
Bill is so handy he could make his own clock like
EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY
I had lunch both days from the Thai vendor, shown below. Thai is my
favorite food, and these folks, who have a restaurant in Ft. Collins, I believe,
do great meals at festivals. I was intrigued by the "monkey balls," but chose to
get spicy chicken stir fry and Pad Thai instead of the deep-fried meat balls.
Both dishes were yummy.
There were about twenty vendors with all the other more
standard festival foods like corn
dogs, gyros, burritos, turkey legs, freshly-squeezed lemonade, and snow cones.
MINING AND MORE
Included in the mining events are single and
team events such as double-jack drilling, jackleg drilling, hand-mucking,
hand-steeling, and spike-driving.
In the spike-driving event, competitors have
to drive three very long metal spikes into the upper beam and two into the lower
beam shown below as quickly as possible. It's harder to drive the spikes
into the upper beam because you have to "hammer" UP instead of DOWN. No one that we watched got all five
spikes in all the way without
having to straighten at least one of them out, which took more time.
The jackleg event was noisy with the mechanical drills
using compressed air. I got hit with some flying
"sand" when I got too close to take this shot:
In the single-jack event, a sledgehammer is used with a
hand-steel, a chisel-like devise, to pound a hole into the rock during an
allotted period of time. In the double-jack, a team approach is used with one
person doing the pounding and the other holding the steel. Steels of varying
sizes are used as the hole gets deeper.
In the hand-mucking event, competitors shovel a half-ton of
broken rock, or muck, into an ore cart and then push the cart along a track to
the finish. We didn't see these last three events.
There is such a rich history of mining in Leadville that I
will do a journal entry later on that subject. I like photographing old
mine buildings and relics. They're everywhere.
JUST MOSEY ALONG NOW
The "mosey" contests are much more sophisticated
events than the mining ones.
Held at high noon on Sunday, folks of all ages dress up in their
1880s finery (the 1880s were Leadville's heyday) and
stroll along Harrison Avenue in front of the judges' stand to compete in several
categories - most authentic dressy couple, most authentic saloon girl,
most authentic child/teenager, etc. I love seeing the
beautiful costumes every year and watching the participants as they saunter in a large
oval, some obviously nervous, some quite comfortable strutting their stuff and
trying to act the part of their character.
[Humorous note: the mosey is conducted
on the same street right after the three burro races start. Burros poop
whenever and wherever they please, just like horses. Several volunteers were out
scooping the street before the mosey began, thank goodness!]
I found myself drawn to several of the contestants
in the mosey.
One was a pretty blonde teenage girl about 14, who was quite composed for
nearly an hour as she patiently waited her turn, talking with her family and a good
friend in the same category. I discovered she made her beautiful navy blue velvet and
white lace outfit, which endeared me to her all the more. I have been a
seamstress since childhood, made elaborate Shakespearean costumes in college,
and taught high school home ec. for two years after graduating. I know this
young lady put a
lot of time into making her outfit and it looked "professional." I
didn't stick around for the judges' results, so I don't know whether she won her
category or not. She was my favorite. She's on the left in the photo below. I
wish I'd gotten a better picture of her.
[I later learned from the Leadville newspaper that this young lady did win her
Two women from Denver who are about my age made me laugh as soon
as I saw them. They were the only two ladies entered in the "saloon girl"
category, and they played the part to the hilt. They were a riot, working the
crowd before the competition and working the judges during it. I talked
with them several minutes while they were waiting to mosey and thoroughly
enjoyed their sense of humor. I wish I was uninhibited enough to parade around
like they did - in character, of course!
These two young children charmed the crowd. It was the
little girl's first time to mosey, but the little boy had obviously done it
before. He really played to his audience! Everybody cheered when he dropped to
one knee during their mosey and pretended to propose to the little girl. Aren't
Here is one more contestant. There were plenty
of men, but their outfits just weren't as photogenic as the women's!
AND NOW MY FAVORITE
EVENTS, THE BURRO RACES!
There is nothing more serious - or comical - during Boom
Days than the three burro races.
Serious because there is a long history
of the event, prize money involved, and potential injuries from ornery burros.
Comical because of the ornery burros! They are totally unpredictable running
"partners." In fact, I don't think they understand the concept of "teamwork" at
The sport of burro racing in Colorado began back in 1949 with the first
pack burro championship race that ran from Leadville to Fairplay, towns about
miles apart and linked by 13,186-foot Mosquito Pass (and the very worst 4WD
road we've ever driven).
Women began competing
After a few years of alternating the start and finish,
Leadville and Fairplay decided to have separate burro races. Later, a third race was added in
Buena Vista, and the "Triple Crown" was born. All three races are still run every
summer, although the distances vary, and prize money is awarded to the male and
female winners in each town. If anyone wins
all three races in one season, he or she wins an additional $500.00.
In Leadville, the men run from Harrison and Fifth Street up
to Mosquito Pass, through the mining district, and back for a total of
twenty-two miles. The
women's race, which loops around Bald Mountain, is fifteen miles long.
One thing that makes the burro races more interesting to me
is that I know two of the long-standing competitors. Tom Sobol, whose wife,
Melissa, is a runner I used to know when I lived in the Atlanta area, often wins
one or more of the burro races. This is Tom (runner with the hat on the right)
and his burro
just after the race began:
The other competitor we know, racing for his 30th year (!), is Ken Chlouber, co-RD of the Leadville races. Ken, a former miner, has been a state
representative and senator, I believe, and is currently running for the state house of
representatives. You saw his photo above in the parade section, along with Merilee O'Neal.
In the next photo, Ken is shown adjusting the mandatory 35-pound pack on his
burro's back before the race this morning:
A friend is holding the burro's reins. Another hovers on the right.
When I arrived at this very spot about 45 minutes before
the race began, I
noticed the door to a nearby ambulance closing and the vehicle speeding off toward
Buena Vista. I saw one of our running buddies from North Carolina, Joe Lugiano,
standing near Ken and began talking to him. I quickly found out it was co-RD
Merilee O'Neal who was just whisked off in the ambulance!
Oh, no! What happened?
Remember when I said burros are unpredictable and burro
racing can be dangerous? Seems Ken's two burros got loose and Merilee tried to
stop them bare-handed. She got run over and suffered bruises, including a black
eye, and required several stitches in one hand. [Later: Good news! She
was soon back on the job in the LT office and we talked to her there on
Wednesday. What a shiner! Folks have been teasing her about the new Boom Days sport of
Ken continued to have problems with the young burro he
chose to use in the race this morning, the son of the burro with which he
previously raced. He started a few minutes behind the other
nine or ten competitors, and could barely get the burro to move from Fifth Street to
Seventh Avenue, where the course heads east into the mountains. I could see he was in
for a mighty struggle.
But Ken's a tough one. He's a former miner, remember? And
his rallying cry to 500 ultra runners every year in the LT100 pre-race briefing is,
"You are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you
can." He lives by this motto.
I later learned he didn't finish the race this time. I'm
sure he gave it his best effort.
The women's burro race started fifteen minutes later with
about eight competitors. None of the ladies
seemed to have problems controlling the burros, at least while I was watching.
What's with that?? Do they prefer more tame animals? Are they "burro
[I didn't realize until later that our good friend, Marge
Hickman, was running a burro! I didn't even see her out there. In the photo
above, she'd in the middle toward the back, in a light blue singlet and
light-colored hat. Marge was 6th in the women's race, winning $60 for her
efforts. Barb Dolan won the race again, and Hal Walters won the men's race. Tom
Sobol was second by about one minute.]
More comical were the "celebratory" burro races. Whether
that is an inadvertent misnomer or deliberately chosen to encourage spectators
to participate, I don't know, but there were no "celebrities" whose names were
announced. Instead, festival goers of all ages and sizes were encouraged to run in
one of eight four-block-long "races" with six different (and very tame) burros. The
burros also ranged in size from little to great big. It was total fun to watch
young women in tank tops and flimsy sandals, overweight 30-something men in
loafers, and mature gray-haired senior citizens running with those burros!
In the first heat, below, notice the young lady dressed in
the blue costume. She would be competing in the mosey half an hour later!!
It was also fun to watch the spectators during
the celebrity races:
Like I said, if Jim had been there to man the camera, I
would have entered one of the "celebrity burro races." At least I had on running
Maybe next year . . .
Next up: back on the Colorado Trail for Segment 8
from Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass.
Moseying on up the trail,