When the 48th annual Ullrfest parade began streaming down Breckenridge's Main Street, a number of onlookers wondered aloud why the crowd wasn't bigger. We soon found out why: everyone seemed to be participating in the parade itself.
With more floats than I've seen in nine years (one person put the total at around 50), this winter's parade ranked among the most memorable of my time here -- a worthy tribute to everyone's favorite fictional character: Ullr, the Norse God of Snow.
Ullrfest has a unique way of bringing together Breckenridge locals and visitors, and not just because the cops let you drink beer in public. Congregating for the parade and subsequent bar-hopping adventures is a midwinter tradition in this town, one we look forward to then lament the next morning, as with any good celebration.
Ullrfest's lure is rooted in the people who take part, perennially a group of soulful and colorful ski bums who make this place what it is. The parade started with longtime local skier Rick "The Pup" Ascher and his wife Annie riding down Main Street as the Ullrfest King and Queen. Following right behind them on the back of a pickup truck was "T-Bar" Tommy Larkin, a legendary skiing devotee who had a heart attack
on the slopes a few years ago then was brought back to life by the ski patrol.
I watched an ancient groomer roll down the street on its tracks as two old-timers passed a bottle of Schnapps back and forth in front of me. A tattooed man sitting on "Ullr's Throne" - a toilet mounted in the back of a truck - followed the groomer, then a penguin with antlers strolled by.
Subsequent floats included girls flashing stomach skin, a foursome mingling in a hot tub, and the Olympic speed skier himself, "Crazy John" Mueller, who in the late '80s and early '90s routinely skied faster than 100 mph.
We saw sled dogs pulling people on bikes, three men paddling the S.S. Ullr canoe on top of a yellow short bus, and two guys fighting in a cage - one of them dressed in a beaver suit - with a sign that read: "Beware of the Beaver."
There were also signs that proclaimed "Ullr lives," "In Ullr we trust" and "Totally Tube-Ullr," as well as a snow-bike brigade and a man mushing a mining cart on the asphalt. The winning float, Ullr O'Toole's Saloon, was designed and manned by a younger generation of ski bums, complete with a "Don't Ask, Don't Tele" sign and a double chair mounted on top of their truck, just ahead of the snow ramp down which four of them skied time and again.
When it was over, we all retreated to our neighborhood watering holes and talked about how much we love Ullr while drinking tall cans of beer, just like every year.
-- Devon ONeil