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Snowmass Mardi Gras set to carry on tradition

Parade-goers seek more beads at Snowmass' Mardi Gras celebration in 2018.
File photo/Snowmass Sun

IF YOU GO...

Snowmass Mardi Gras

7:00 a.m. Mother of All Ascensions 28th Anniversary Uphill Race

Participants start at the bottom of Fanny Hill in the Snowmass Base Village Plaza for a 7:00am start on snowshoes, stabilizers, telemark gear, track skis, or choice of uphilling gear. The climb culminates at Gwyn’s High Alpine for a post-race celebration, costume contest, and awards ceremony, complete with prizes. Outrageous Mardi Gras outfits are encouraged to enter the costume contest for prizes. Tickets are $40 in advance/$50 day-of. A portion of this year’s entry fee benefits the Aspen Hope Center. Pre-register online or in person at select locations throughout the valley. For more information or to register, go to snowfusion.com.

12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. El Jebel Shrine Pipe Band and Carnival Performers on the Snowmass Mall

Performances by the El Jebel Shrine Pipe Band and family friendly activities including face painting, stilt walkers, a balloon artist, and more.

3:00 p.m. Mardi Gras King & Queen Bead Toss in Snowmass Base Village

The annual bead toss, led by the Mardi Gras King Duke Taylor and Queen Julie Schopper before the start of the Bud Light HiFi Concert. The bead toss takes place on the Bud Light HiFi stage in Snowmass Base Village.

3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Snowmass S’mores & King Cake

Snowmass Tourism serves up complimentary King Cake from the S’mores cart in Snowmass Base Village in honor of the holiday. Guests who find a baby receive a special prize!

3:30 p.m. to 6:00pm Bud Light HiFi Concert: The Soul Rebels

The Soul Rebels, an eight-piece New Orleans based brass ensemble, playing soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock, and pop. The concert is free and open to everyone.

6:00pm - DJ Berkel Beats at Base Camp Bar & Grill

Continue the party at Base Camp Bar & Grill with local DJ Berkel Beats. $20 cover, VIP lounge reservations available.

7:00pm – Fireworks over Fanny Hill

On Tuesday, thousands of Americans will sport purple, green and gold, pull out their beaded necklaces from years past, and take part in a multitude of lively festivities to celebrate Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday or carnival.

An international holiday with Christian roots shooting back to the Middle Ages — with one of the biggest celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Fat Tuesday was first recognized in the U.S. — Mardi Gras is known for its excessive feasts and parties precluding Lent, or the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, according to the Mardi Gras New Orleans website.

In Snowmass, locals and visitors will partake in the 38th year of Fat Tuesday festivities, including a bead toss, carnival activities, live music and fireworks.

“Times have changed, events have changed, but we still honor many of the Snowmass traditions,” said Julie Hardman, special events manager for Snowmass Tourism.

According to Hardman, the local legend of Mardi Gras is that a big group of skiers from Louisiana came to Snowmass over Fat Tuesday year after year in the mid-1980s, aiming to escape the holiday chaos at home but bringing their traditions and celebrations with them.

Town stakeholders capitalized on the opportunity to host a village version of Fat Tuesday, sending letters to Louisianans to inform them of Snowmass Mardi Gras and throwing a parade that was a huge hit, according to “The Story of Snowmass” book.

But although there is no longer an annual parade due to a decrease in local and visitor participation, and the celebration has shifted in recent years to a more apres-ski event, Hardman said Snowmass Tourism and town stakeholders are still committed to the town’s Fat Tuesday tradition.

This year’s Mardi Gras will feature Duke Taylor and Julie Schopper as the celebration’s king and queen, a recognition awarded to the duo as beloved members of the community and as two longtime employees of Gene Taylor’s Sports, which is celebrating 50 years of business in Snowmass this year.

“Here’s to another 50 years of Gene Taylor’s and 38 years of Mardi Gras in Snowmass,” Schopper said in a prepared statement. “I am really looking forward to getting outside of the shop and seeing friends and guests around the village. We are thrilled to represent Snowmass and Gene Taylor’s!”

With Taylor and Schopper at the helm, the 2020 Fat Tuesday festivities will include the annual king and queen bead toss; face painting, stilt walkers, balloon artists, and other carnival attractions on the Village Mall; an Aspen Skiing Co.-sponsored Bud Light Hi-Fi concert featuring The Soul Rebels, a New Orleans brass band known for its funk and soul; and the Mother of All Ascensions uphill race, one of the longest-running Snowmass Mardi Gras traditions.

Starting at 7 a.m. at the bottom of Fanny Hill, dozens of locals and visitors will climb over 2,000 feet in less than two miles to Gwyn’s High Alpine for the race, using their uphilling gear of choice.

The race aims to bring the community together for a fun, affordable pre-party climb, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and giving back to participants through its famous goody bags and prize giveaways at the finish, according to Andrew Bielecki, a part-time valley resident and longtime organizer of the ascension.

“I’ve always been a big advocate of getting people outside and active as a way to blow off steam,” Bielecki said. “It puts people in a better head space and promotes the overall health of our community.”

That’s why for the past three years Bielecki has given a portion of the race entry fee, $40 in advance and $50 on Fat Tuesday, to the Aspen Hope Center and is upping that portion from $5 to $10 this year because of the need for mental health services and support in the valley.

Bielecki emphasized that his mission is to add to the village’s Mardi Gras festivities for years to come by getting people up the mountain and making everyone feel like a winner for taking part.

“I’ve always wanted to give people more in return than what they paid for,” Bielecki said, noting he has roughly $15,000 worth of prizes to give away at the race this year.

“I feel so blessed to be a part of this community and want to give back as much as I can. … My heart is here in the valley.”

As Snowmass Mardi Gras continues to evolve, Hardman said Snowmass Tourism hopes to continue to support longstanding traditions like the Mother of All Ascensions race, and to see Fat Tuesday grow even fatter.

“We’re always open to ideas and our overall goal is to make our existing events better and better,” Hardman said.

mvincent@aspentimes.com


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