Most people are charmed by the Colorado landscape, our world-class ski resorts, or interested cultural scene. But lesser known are Colorado’s wacky festival traditions, some dating back to pioneer days. From coffin races to mushrooms, frozen dudes to stampeding donkeys, here’s a list of Colorado’s weirdest (and most endearing!) festivals and where to find them.
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1. Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade
Manitou Springs, Colorado
Manitou Springs hosts this annual Halloween-time festival. Emma Crawford was a young woman who arrived in Manitou in the late 1800’s hoping to be cured of tuberculosis by the mineral-rich waters. She sadly passed away, and in an odd turn of events, her coffin slid from its resting place into the canyon below close to town. The festival today is in honor of Emma. It features a parade and a coffin race where entrants build coffin-like vehicles and race them down Main Street.
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2. Frozen Dead Guy Days
This three-day festival features live music, a costumed polar plunge, and more frozen festivities like ice turkey bowling. The event honors Bredo Morstol, a Norwegian man who after his death was shipped to California to be frozen in a cryonics lab. He was then moved to Nederland to live with his granddaughter. In spite of the evident controversy, Bredo still resides in Nederland… at -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
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3. Telluride Mushroom Festival
This annual festival brings together academics, enthusiasts, foragers, and admirers of fine cuisine. Festival-goers can attend lectures, join foray expeditions, and participate in the culinary cook-off. The highlight, however, might be the parade in which the fungi lovers dress as their favorite mushroom and celebrate along Main Street in downtown Telluride.
4. Mike the Headless Chicken Festival
This festival is exactly what it sounds like — an ode to a headless chicken. In 1945, Mike’s owner was getting ready to cook him for supper when in the middle of the butchering process, he escaped. Mike lived for 18 months without his head, confounding both farmers and scientists alike. The festival features live music, a golf tournament, and delicious food… including chicken wings.
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5. Donkey Derby Days
Cripple Creek, Colorado
Donkey Derby Days dates back to the 1930s when a local resident tried to attract visitors with a donkey racetrack. The festival continues today. Racers run along Main Street with their donkeys, and onlookers can enjoy live music, food, and vendors as well.
6. Leadville Boom Days International Pack Burros Race
Leadville also hosts an annual burro race. The race is part of a festival celebrating the pioneering, wild west history of what was once Colorado’s wildest mountain town.
7. Denver County Fair
This ain’t your mama’s down home county fair. From unicorn rides to poetry slams, wine tastings to a kitten pavilion (yes, you can play with them!), Denver’s County Fair is always a fun and unique event. Try your hand at a big wheel race or enter the more traditional pie bake off.
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