Friday, October 30, 2009

Off-ed to the Races!

No the people of Manitou Springs, Colorado aren't a bunch of chanting and gibbering deformed idol-worshipping savages out of a Lovecraft story, they just really know how to celebrate Halloween. And their Halloween spirit shines the brightest during the Emma Crawford Coffin Races, held every year the Saturday before Halloween. This years event, the 15th annual ECCR, had the fortune of falling on one of the warmest sunniest day of the month.

Emma Crawford was a lovely young woman, afflicted with tubeculosis, whose family moved to Manitou in 1889 to provide her with the believed restorative powers of the local mineral springs and mountain air. Emma asked to be buried on nearby Red Mountain and when she died, in 1891, her family had the wish fulfilled. Unfortunately, Emma's body was relocated years later by the railroad to the south side of Red Mountain where the heightened exposure to the elements caused Emma coffin to become unearthed and wash down the mountainside in 1929. Emma's poor abused bones were re-interred in a cemetery in an unmarked grave and rumor has it that Emma's ghost haunts the slopes of Red Mountain looking for her lost resting place.

So I trust you get the basic premise. Every year the folks of Manitou pay tribute to Emma's spirit with a racing competition where colorfully-costumed teams push coffin-like carts ( two at a time) to the finish line, each bearing a unique representation of the restless Miss Crawford.

Each year there is an invitation only wake at the Miramont Castle the evening before the race and the next day the public event begins with a parade in Emma honor featuring a convoy of pimped-out hearses as well as the race competitors themselves.

It's basically a Halloween event, with dazzling costumes on both sides of the parade-tape.

Prizes are given for originality of the teams costumes and coffins as well as the actual races.

The event gives Halloween exhibitionists a perfect place to flaunt their nature, such as... What's this?...

What's bugging those dogs? Some kind of remote-controlled car?

Oh, but of course...

The fact is, there were so darned many people packed onto Manitou Avenue that I gave up trying to get good shots of the races themselves. But I knew someone would have video up on YouTube by the time I wrote this post, anyway.

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