"I have my wave down," said Rhonda Coxon, about the peculiar royal hand wave made famous by Queen Elizabeth.
She'll need it as she and her consort for the day, Brad Krehbiel, lead off the Mardi Gras parade on the Snowmass Mall at 4 p.m. after an hour of throwing necklaces to a bead-hungry throng from their royal balcony above Christy Sports on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Krehbiel and Coxon were chosen to be king and queen of the annual Fat Tuesday celebration that was started unofficially by visitors from New Orleans in 1980 and became an official event sponsored by the Snowmass Resort Association a few years later.
By all accounts those early days were a haze of wild parties following the bead throwing and parade, which might be the reason that memories of that first official start is foggy for many. But the town's timeline sets the event in 1982. That would make this the 28th annual Mardi Gras in this small mountain town.
Queen Rhonda was there in those early days helping to organize and plan the event when she was director of reservations at SRA.
"I was one of the founders of our Mardi Gras along with Linda Reynolds, who worked for SRA in special events," said the longtime local and town clerk, who has had her thumb in many Village pies including Rotary, Snowmass Chapel and the community picnic. For many locals, this avid volunteer is the Queen of Snowmass Village.
"I think it's fabulous that Rhonda is finally the queen of Mardi Gras. She's been the lady-in-waiting for too long," said Reynolds, who is now a coordinator for young skiers at the Treehouse.
"I'm very excited and feel privileged that they asked me to be the queen. Especially since they've got a new crown this year. It will be a lot of fun," said Coxon.
Standing by her side at the festivities is King Krehbiel, who is an experienced bead thrower.
"I've been up on the balcony throwing beads for the last six or seven years. It's a lot fun, it's like feeding fish. I've even been a judge for the parade floats," he said.
Flattered and surprised at becoming king for a day, Krehbiel is known to locals as a Village shuttle driver. He also works for Blazing Adventures in the summer and was a photographer on the mountain for many years.
He and his bride Jacqie Stewart now have a photography business of their own.
"I've been running Mardi Gras for the past nine years," said Stewart, who started with SRA and continues with the town. The manager of the Office at the Cirque has been busy working on next Tuesday's festivities.
"This year, The Sweet Life will make the king cake. It will be on the mall at 1 p.m. and everyone is welcome to a piece," she said.
For the parade, she has invited the Glenwood High School cheerleaders and band, the El Jebel Shrine Pipe Band of Denver, the Basalt Brownies Troop and Basalt dance team. As always, there will be floats by local businesses and group vying for prizes. Look for one by Snowmass/Wildcat Fire District this year.
Reynolds remembers the early days of the Fat Tuesday celebrations.
"Unlike today when the parade route is cordoned off, in the past you couldn't tell who was in the parade and who was watching. You couldn't move through the mall at all. One year the Basalt Middle School band was invited to play, but told us that they only knew one song, "When the Saints Come Marching In," and they could only play if they stood still, so we called them the Basalt Non-marching Band and they played the same tune over and over again. It was so funny," she said.
This year's celebration starts early with the annual Mother of All Ascensions uphill race at 7 a.m. The 1,741-foot vertical foot ascent begins on Fanny Hill by the Mall and ends at the Gwyn's High Alpine restaurant. Grab your shoes, track skis, hiking boots, running shoes and maybe, just maybe, a costume. Pre-register at Christy Sports, the Ute Mountaineer or Summit Canyon Mountaineering. Race day registration costs $35 and begins at 5:30 a.m. at the Snowmass Ticket Pavilion. The race starts at 7 a.m.
Downloaded a race application from http://www.snowmassvillage.com/mother-of-all-ascensions_2009.
"It's fun to do it in a costume and there are a lot of great prizes. Everyone gets a goody bag," said King Krehbiel, who made the climb regularly from 1999 to 2007.
At lunch time, look for Cajun cuisine at local restaurants and king cake for dessert at 1 p.m. Kids will enjoy making their own masks and having their faces painted by clowns from 2 to 3 p.m. when the bead throwing frenzy starts, which is followed by the parade at 4 p.m.
To prepare for Mardi Gras, look for the bead concessions on the mall in the days leading up to the event. Selling beads is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Little Red School House.
Ann Larson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org