Let’s start with the obvious. The Chainless Race wasn’t meant to be safe. It was meant to be fun.
Tying up every ambulance at this end of the valley isn’t a good outcome of the event.
But…”patting down” people, for almost any reason whatsoever, is a really, really bad idea. Unless you are a prison guard looking for a shank, keep your hands off. Crested Butte ain’t a prison…remember we’re trying to brand it as a Pure and Simple Paradise…so the idea of “patting down” riders who want to do the Chainless Race is too much over the top. It’s just a bad idea and has rightfully raised the hackles of the people who ride it.
Having said that, when the race got sort of official a few years ago with some ‘adult’ oversight, it was only a matter of time before new rules were put in place. And the tipping point was basically reached last summer when a few too many people acted like high school freshmen drinking tequila for the first time before riding an already sketchy race. The matrix was crossed when all the north valley ambulances were in use and safety officials felt unsafe for several hours.
Rule Number 1: Don’t piss off the cops and EMTs. The reality is they have a different (and valid) perspective and they deal with everything from big bonfires at Vinotok to lots of open container violations when there are 8,000 people mingling on Elk Avenue after the Fourth of July parade. They usually take a deep breath and deal with the situation in a reasonable manner. Heck, most cops probably would prefer no events be held where there might be a possibility of fire, speed, drinking, drugs and potential nudity. But they deal with the Crested Butte “culture” pretty well and if we outlawed all those things, there wouldn’t be many events left. Rule 1a: Just be cool and don’t go brazenly over the top and everything will work out. Be clever instead of obvious. See Rule Number 1.
The problem is that at least three people out of 350 went over the top last year and that’s thrown a good local event into a tizzy.
Now while the Chainless might be a tad “unconventional,” it’s not the worst thing out there by far. An anonymous elected official sent me a link to Cracked.com that listed “5 Giant City-wide Parties You Won’t Believe Are Real.” The Chainless, AJ and Vinotok aren’t on the list. But the Burning Tar Barrel Festival is. That takes place in a town in England. The citizens soak barrels in tar, light them on fire and carry them through the streets on their shoulders. The people fight for control of the heavy flaming barrels that they hoist over their heads. They have smaller burning barrels for the kids. Then there is the Baby Leaping Festival in Spain. Parents put their kids on a mattress in the street and a guy in a yellow suit leaps over them. That’s been going on since the 1620s. In Japan, there’s a festival called Kanamara Matsuri where everything is decorated in phalluses. There’s a moose poop festival in Alaska and a festival in Spain where men jump into a corral of wild horses and try to shear their manes and tails. That tops out the five. The Chainless seems downright tame by comparison.
So, as someone pointed out about Crested Butte…most of our homegrown events go too far at some point and then the safety response goes too far and pretty quickly a happy balance is reached and the events continue. The Vinotok bonfire isn’t 300 feet tall anymore but it’s still pretty damn impressive. The Chainless is another on that list.
So with some common (Crested Butte) sense, life can go on. Lose the threat of the pat down. Seriously. Ask people to show a little more respect for the event and act older than a 15-year-old with a shot glass and not go overboard before or during the race. See Rule Number 1 (and 1a). Both sides can move a bit and get what they want. If not, don’t be surprised if an organic “pirate” event takes shape and nothing changes but the surprise factor. (See the Gadfly on page 16.)
Hey, the alternative could always be a chainless, burning barrel race decorated with moose droppings and phalluses that ends with a jump over the Harvest Mother’s baby while we pat each other down. There’s something intrinsically Crested Butte about that.