Thursday, October 31, 2013

Emma Crawford Coffin Races

The 19th Annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races were last Saturday.

If you go to any local museums around Colorado Springs, you will find a section on the Sanitoriums, which sprang up at the turn of the century and was a major economic driver for the area. People who were diagnosed with consumption were told to go out west, where the air was cleaner, and get vigorous and active in order to get better. Tens of thousands of people came, before penicillin was available, seeking a cure in the mountain air and the healing properties of the mineral water that flowed from the natural springs.

Emma Crawford came to Manitou Springs as a teenager suffering from TB, and, against medical advice, once she felt stronger, she hiked up Red Mountain and expressed a desire to be buried on the top. She even tied a red handkerchief on a Pinon tree to mark the exact spot she wanted. At age 19, she succumbed to her illness. It took took two days for twelve men to carry her coffin up to that tree and honor her request in 1899, but they did it.

However, progress intervened and the railroad came through. Emma was relocated to a southern facing side of the mountain, which is much more exposed to the elements. After a torrential rain in 1929, Emma went for her coffin ride down the side of the mountain and back into town.

History gets murkier after that. Her remains were discovered by some boys and what happened to her next remains a mystery. Whether she was immediately re-interred in town or not, it was in an unmarked grave. It wasn't until 2004 that a grave marker was erected, and likely we will never find where her bones were placed.

In 1994 the first Emma Crawford coffin races were born. Each team consists of five members: 4 runners and an Emma who must ride in the handmade coffin on wheels. Wheels cannot be larger than 6" in diameter. Creativity is awarded, both for theme/coffin construction and for the best Emma.

Teams compete in the races by pushing Emma back up Manitou Avenue as quickly as possible.

Sammi and I staked out a spot Saturday morning pretty early and by the time the parade got going, we'd kicked it into Disney Crowd gear. Sam snaked her way into a spot along the curb so she could see. I stood on the corner of the planter to take pictures. Unfortunately, since this was our first time, we had to learn from our mistakes. The tree near that planter obscured good photographs of the path up the hill. So we had a much better view of the parade of all the teams before the start of the races than the races themselves. And the parade view was over tops of heads for me, so nothing spectacular to show photograph-wise.

Still, a fun time to take in all the costumes and craziness. We watched the first half of the races before slipping into the Loop with Deana for lunch and then shopping with the gift certificate D had given me for my birthday.


Post a Comment