The arts and culture of South Park have long been defined by its rich mountain heritage and the necessities of high altitude living. Although South Park has evolved since its first residents arrived 12,000 years ago, it continues to celebrate its origins as a game parc for mountain men, a source of riches for miners, a lush valley for ranchers, a supply center for the railroad, a stunning playground for recreationists, and a home for the hardy settlers of the 19th Century. Above all, it is the unparalleled natural landscape that has inspired so many artists to try and capture its beauty. Local artists along the Artisans Trail use a variety of mediums to offer visitors their own piece of South Park and invite them to immerse themselves in the celebration of art and music at the Festival in the Clouds. Mining heritage has been commemorated at over 50 World Championship Pack Burro Races and the railroad’s significance is remembered each year at Boreas Pass Railroad Day. We invite you to share your story of South Park’s arts and culture by exploring the events and traditions that characterize our National Heritage Area.
Boreas Pass Railroad Days
Since its inception in 1995, the annual Boreas Pass Railroad Day celebration has revived the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad in the Como community. Sponsored by the South Park Ranger District, visitors are invited to tour the many historic sites that lined the railroad line from Como and over Boreas Pass to Breckenridge. In Como, rare opportunities to tour the roundhouse and depot are combined with craft demonstrations, vendors, and exhibits. As visitors drive over Boreas Pass, they can ride a narrow gauge handcar at Rocky Point and then stop for refreshments at the Section House on the summit.
Boreas Pass Railroad Day is held annually on the 3rd Saturday of August!
The World Championship Pack Burro Race, held the last weekend of July, has been a unique celebration of South Park’s mining heritage since the first race in 1948. The concept is simple: get up to Mosquito Pass and back to Fairplay with your burro and cross the finish line. In reality, the 29 mile course with 3,000 feet of elevation gain is made more difficult when you involve the stereotypically stubborn burro. The idea for Colorado’s only indigenous sport comes from the days of prospectors roaming the surrounding mountains with their faithful burros in search of gold and other valuable minerals. Legend says that the races began when two competing miners had to race back to town with their burros to file their claim, and thus the burro race was invented. Miners often participated in the Burro Race in its early years, but as mining declined and miners moved away, the racers became more diverse. The race has since developed into a two day celebration that brings over 10,000 visitors to our mountain communities and includes a llama race, arts & crafts fair, parade, and more. The Burro Days festivities are managed by the Burro Committee and all proceeds go to the local school district.
Festival in the Clouds
The Festival in the Clouds is the most popular event sponsored by the Alma Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to further the quality of life in the Alma community. The Festival began in 1997 as a venue for local musicians and artists to gain exposure but has blossomed into a full-fledged music festival that is the largest fundraiser for the Alma Foundation. Each July, cars line the streets of Alma as crowds gather in the town park to hear their favorite bands, peruse local art, and enjoy great food. The Festival generally features 25 bands and 40 regional artists each year and also includes children’s’ activities, a beer garden, and dancing. What makes the event truly special is that it is staffed completely by volunteers and all bands donate their performances.