Snowmass celebrates Fat Tuesday for 34th year |

Snowmass celebrates Fat Tuesday for 34th year

Jill Beathard | Snowmass Sun
Snowmass Village residents Mayor Markey Butler and Johnny Henschel, queen and king of Mardi Gras in 2013, wave to the crowd at the Snowmass parade. This year's king and queen are Joe Coffey, town housing director, and Nancy Wilhelms, executive director of Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
Snowmass Tourism/Courtesy photo |

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7 a.m.: 24th annual Mother of All Ascensions uphill climb, Base Village Plaza

2 to 3:45 p.m.: Free entertainment with face painters and street performers on the Snowmass Mall

3 to 4 p.m.: Massive bead throw on Snowmass Mall

4 p.m.: Mardi Gras parade on Snowmass Mall

7:30 p.m.: Free fireworks on Fanny Hill

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When Snowmass Village celebrates Mardi Gras for the 34th consecutive year Feb. 9, it will be with the help of people who have made the party — and the town — what it is.

Take Murry Daniels, a part-time resident of Carbondale and Louisiana. His family and several friends have built a float for the Snowmass parade for many years, and they love bringing their Southern traditions out west.

“Everyone loves it,” he said. “They love throwing beads, they love handing things out to the children. … It just makes my heart feel good that I’m doing what we’ve always done, even in Colorado.”

Family-owned Sopris Liquor & Wine is the business sponsor of the float, and the group of friends all builds it together in Daniels’ garage in River Valley Ranch. Daniels usually has a contingent that comes up from Louisiana to escape the madness and help spread the Mardi Gras spirit here.

“It always is a project, but it’s a family project,” Daniels said.

This year’s float will be an “old-fashioned Louisiana crawfish boil,” Daniels said. The kids in Daniels’ group are dressing up and jumping in a 300-gallon stock tank to play the part of the crawfish, and Daniels will be dressed as a chef stirring the pot.

“And we will have two grosses of beads to throw, as we always do,” Daniels said.

Traditionally, the Mardi Gras celebration starts Jan. 6, the end of the 12-day Christmas period, and ends with Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, Daniels said. In Louisiana, organizations get together and each have one parade during that time, and it spurs spending and business activity all through the festivities, he said.

“Obviously here we can’t do that, … but I would like to see crews get together and have a party somewhere in the village before the parade,” Daniels said. “It would bring so much commerce.”

Daniels’ group tries to do their part: They typically win one of the cash prizes Snowmass Tourism gives out to parade floats, but he says they never leave the village with any left.

“The money they give us, we spend it in Snowmass,” Daniels said.

The Mardi Gras parade always has a king and queen presiding, and this year the monarchs are Joe Coffey, town housing director, and Nancy Wilhelms, executive director of Anderson Ranch Arts Center, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.

“I think it’s a wonderful nod to Anderson Ranch,” Wilhelms said.

The nationally-known arts center will celebrate its golden year with public events and art exhibitions all over Snowmass Village and up and down the valley. Wilhelms said it’s because of the nonprofit’s board of directors, staff and the Snowmass community, which she said “supports us fully,” that the Ranch has been so successful over the years.

“We’re looking forward to the next 50,” she said.

Being crowned Mardi Gras queen is a personal triumph as well, though.

“My friend Jane and I practiced our homecoming wave for years,” Wilhelms said. “I’ve been holding on to this wave for a long time, and now I finally get to use it.”

Wilhelms and Coffey will lead the bead toss to start off the festivities, ride in the royal float in the parade and then attend celebrations around the village before the fireworks cap off the day.

All of the afternoon’s events are free and open to the public. There is a registration fee for the Mother of All Ascensions Uphill that starts off the day.