Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs has a surprising connection to Netflix show, ‘Cheer’

The Great Fruitcake Toss returns to Manitou Springs this weekend. Photo Courtesy, The Gazette

Every now and then, we consume a piece of pop culture, slightly obsess over it, and then that thing appears to show up everywhere.

One of those phenoms, at least for now, seems to be “Cheer,” the addictive six-part documentary that dropped on Netflix in early January.

Along with taking over social media feeds and inspiring in-depth think pieces, the hit show has a connection to the annual Great Fruitcake Toss, which returns Saturday to Memorial Park in Manitou Springs.

If you’ve watched “Cheer,” you know the show follows the competitive (and dominating) cheerleading team at Navarro College, which is in a small Texas town called Corsicana.

You’ll also know that “Cheer” gives screen time to Corsicana’s other claim to fame: being home to a fruitcake factory called Collin Street Bakery. The bakery bills its fruitcake as the best in the world.

As it turns out, Collin Street Bakery and Manitou Springs have some history.

For years, the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce invited folks from the fruitcake factory to Colorado for the annual toss.

The answer was always no, said Jenna Gallas, special event coordinator for the chamber.

“I think they didn’t want to associate with people who throw the product,” she said.

Why did the chamber keep sending an invite, then?

“Why not?” Gallas said. “We thought, come show us what you got and don’t be afraid of us because we’re throwing fruitcakes. We’re not throwing yours. We’re throwing the crappy ones we make.”

Ahead of the 2019 event, the chamber didn’t send an invite. But Collin Street Bakery had a change of heart.

“Last year, they reached out to us,” Gallas said.

A handful of staff traveled from Corsicana to check out the event. They even participated in the tosses, which are judged for balance, accuracy, speed and distance.

While participants can bring their own or “rent” a provided fruitcake, Collin Street came prepared with samples of their own treats, which Gallas called “really good.”

“People have this automatic notion that it’s awful because it’s fruitcake,” she said. “It’s all in how you make it. You can make anything bad.”

The team from Texas appeared to enjoy the trip, according to a Jan. 6 blog post on the company’s website.

“For a while, our bakery was a strong advocate of ALL fruitcake,” the blog stated. “But the truth is, all fruitcakes are not created equal. Bad fruitcake should be tossed … hurled, chunked, and catapulted.”

It ended this way: “And when tossing is completed, a fresh, delicious fruitcake should be ready and waiting to eat. So that’s why this past year, we loaded ourselves down with free DeLuxe Fruitcake samples and flew up north to reward the world’s most trained fruitcake tossers with a taste of the world’s best fruitcake.”

Fruitcake, the good and bad, was celebrated, as it will be again on Saturday. That’s why the event began, back in 1995. And to attract visitors, Gallas said.

“We’re a funky community,” she said. “We like to do interesting things. This fit the mold in Manitou.”

The Fruitcake Toss has placed Manitou in the spotlight more than once. This weekend, a film crew from a Japanese TV show called “Itte-Q” will take footage for an upcoming episode.

This month, Collin Street shared details about the Manitou visit to its roughly 40,000 followers on Facebook.

Ten days later, there was this Facebook post: “Have you heard? Collin Street Bakery makes a guest appearance in Netflix’s newest binge-worthy series, ‘Cheer.’”

What: The Great Fruitcake Toss

When: 1-3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Park, 502 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Price: Free; manitousprings.org.

Something else: Cool Science Kids’ Mini Fruitcake Toss, noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Manitou Springs City Hall, 606 Manitou Ave., free; coolscience.org.

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