The San Juan Mountains are known for some of the most extreme terrain and the rugged, adventurous outdoors people who make their homes here. Still, locals have a more relaxed side as well, which was on full display Saturday when a colorful parade of 150 smiling “racers,” dressed in a mix of spring outfits and wacky costumes, strolled their way through the inaugural Rally Through the Alley 1K.
Unlike other local races, where the aid stations usually include only water and Gatorade, the stations on this .62-mile course along a dirt ally in Ridgway included sweet and spicy bacon, ice cream, and candy bars. And the objective was not to finish with the best time, but to complete it having had the best time.
“Nobody told me how many minutes it took me to finish. I was too busy talking, laughing and eating Cheetos to notice my time. It was just silly. Everyone was in a good mood with high spirits,” said rally participant Christine Stephenson of Ridgway. “I am not a racer, absolutely not right now. One kilometer was a perfect distance for me.”
Stephenson and her partner, Eric Pickerill, were team Wee-Walken, a play on the name Weehawken, the local arts organization that organized the event and benefited from the funds raised, along with the Ridgway Chautauqua Society that operates the Sherbino Theater.
The team’s costumes, Pickerill’s brainchild, were little yellow rally cars, worn around their stomachs, and yellow helmets with green racing stripes and beer cups with sipping straws attached. The beer cups and local craft brew stickers on their outfits were in homage to the Love Your Valley Festival, which started at the rally finish line. The team was also hoping to win the best beer enthusiast award, even though Stephenson doesn’t actually drink beer, but were happy to win the best team costume award instead.
Ashley King-Grambley, executive director for both Weehawken Creative Arts and the Sherbino Theater, said Wee-Walken was probably her favorite costume among the many great ones. She also gave a shout out to the Ridgway Creative Advocacy Team who dressed up as alley cats.
The turnout for the rally exceeded expectations, King-Grambley said. The amount raised won’t be accounted for until all expenses are totaled in a few more weeks.
While all the business-sponsored aid stations proved popular, the “rowdiest” was the Salon Monti and Glow Day Spa & Salon booth, where the ladies were playing music, throwing Fruit Loops at passersby, giving out candy bars, and applying mustaches and glitter to the racers.
“We were thinking about unicorns when we came up with the Fruit Loop idea,” said Sharra King, a stylist at Salon Monti. “My buddy, Brian, a 45-year-old man, came up dressed as a care bear. I saw other clients dressed up in costumes, too, and one brought her new puppy and visited with each station. It was fun to get outside of our salons, as a group of women really supporting each other, cheering each other on and having fun.”
The goal was to raise funds for two organizations that provide great programming for the communities, and to not take the “race” part of it too seriously but enjoy the allies where artwork and poems are a year-round feature, King said.
“My son, Trevor, ran it and wanted to win. He was in front but when he saw donuts, that stopped him so he didn’t win,” she added, explaining that the first place award was actually a bronze skunk meaning you stink because you did not stop and have fun.
She and Stephenson agreed that having the race end at the Love Your Valley Festival was a great way to keep the party going, adding a splash of outlandish creativity to the concert in Hartwell Park as costumed revelers mixed in the crowd. Both also agreed they can’t wait until next year’s rally, and the chance to raise the bar on the level of silliness.
Stephenson admitted, “We’re already working on our costume for next year. Let me phrase that correctly: Eric is already working on next year’s costume. It’s going to be spectacular, but I can’t reveal it for now.”