Rumor has it that there’s a big sporting event taking place in London over the next couple of weeks. But if you really want to watch athletes push themselves to the limit, you might want to head to Fairplay, Colo., this weekend instead.
That’s where you’ll find a crowd of upwards of 10,000 people celebrating Burro Days (July 28–29) and cheering on the competitors in the 64th annual World Championship Pack Burro Race.
What makes the event so extreme, you ask?
It could be the 29-mile course over dirt roads, boulder fields and snow.
Or, it could be the altitude, which is literally breathtaking, as the course climbs from 10,000 feet in town to 13,158 feet at the top of nearby Mosquito Pass and then back down.
Oh, and did we mention that each racer has to run the course while tethered to a donkey carrying 33 pounds of gear, including a pick, shovel and gold pan? Competitors may find themselves pulling, pushing, pleading, even bribing with food — everything, in fact, except actually riding their burro — while living up to the race’s official motto of “64 Years of Hauling Ass.”
Like many homegrown festivals, Burro Days has both a genesis story — two long-ago miners racing to town with their heavily loaded burros, both hoping to lay claim to the same patch of ground — and a basis in the modern-day challenge of boosting tourism in small, out-of-the-way places.
“It was first proposed as a challenge in 1949 and it went out to anyone who wanted to race from Leadville to Fairplay,” said Julie Bullock, president of the festival’s burro committee. “They were probably sitting in a bar at the time.”
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