12 Reasons You Can’t Miss Leadville Boom DaysJuly 26, 2019
This year marks the 70th running of the burro races at Leadville Boom Days, a three-day festival to celebrate mining heritage in Leadville, Colorado. And this long-standing festival truly has something for everyone! Themed “70 Years of Haulin’ Ass,” the event kicks off Friday, Aug. 2 and goes through Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019.
In addition to the best-known events—the burro races, a big parade, and the mining competitions—are plenty of other ways to celebrate Leadville’s history. Games, dances, live music and entertainment, kid-friendly activities, and other fun celebrations abound at this festive festival in North America’s highest-elevation city. Check out these 12 reasons you can’t miss it! (Full schedule)
1. Burro Races
What are burro races, anyway? Each team is made up of one runner leading a burro on a rope. Each burro carries a regulation pack with mining equipment. Leadville’s races leave from downtown Harrison Avenue on Sunday at 11 a.m. (15-mile course) and 11:15 a.m. (21-mile course). After a jaunt through the mountains east of town, teams begin returning around 1:15 p.m. (short course) and 3:30 p.m. (long course).
Leadville may be a genuine small mountain town, but its Boom Days parade is anything but small. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with a flyover from the San Juan Squadron. Then bands, floats, antique cars, people dressed in Victorian costumes, dancing dinosaurs, burros, and more begin their way down historic Harrison Avenue!
3. Mining Events
How would you like to hold a small sliver on steel vertically on a rock while your partner pounds it with a sledgehammer? Such is the breathless suspense of the doublejack mining competition, where teams do just that. Other competitions involve shoveling crushed rock into an ore cart and pushing it along a track and drilling into a giant rock. These events start at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday behind the Elks Lodge at 123 W. 5th St. and run throughout the day.
4. Victorian Costumes
See people in 1880s finery in the Victorian mosey, a costume contest on Harrison Ave. on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. And watch out for outlaws and lawmen doing gunfights and skits at Harrison and 8th Street on Saturday and Sunday.
Applaud acts of great skill at the motorcycle games on Friday night at 5:30 p.m., bingo at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Elks, a boardwalk competition on Harrison Ave. on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and an old-fashioned pie-eating contest, egg toss, and balloon toss at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The Annual Rod & Gun Club Show offers gun paraphernalia, ammunition, collectibles, firearms dealers, and arts and crafts Saturday and Sunday at the Sixth Street Gym, starting at 9 a.m. both days. T.H.E. Boomin’ Auto Show boasts shiny cars on Harrison Avenue after the parade on Saturday.
7. Kids’ Activities
Kids can enter a mucking competition on Sunday, shoveling crushed ore just like the miners did! They can pan for gold for free outside the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m.! Children can also do rockhounding and mine rescue inside the museum that afternoon as part of Boom Days Mining Madness. Children enter free with paid adult admission.
Special kids’ activities also take place at the Lake County High School Football Field on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Enjoy a community contra dance at FREIGHT, Leadville’s newest event venue, a restored historic train depot, on Friday at 7 p.m. Or two-step at the Elks Lodge dances at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
9. Music and Entertainment
Enjoy plenty of live music and entertainment throughout this three-day festival.
2 p.m. – A Community Talent Show at the historic Tabor Opera House with singing, acrobatic yoga, bagpipes, guitar, and more (308 Harrison Ave.)
7:30 p.m. – The Vail Valley Band at the Tabor Opera House. Enjoy everything from pop to classic rock, country, and jazz as well as originals and a few Broadway show tunes.
7 p.m. – Colorado Springs band Woodshed Red is coming to FREIGHT, the restored historic train depot that is Leadville’s newest event venue. Woodshed Red generates an upbeat positive grassy sound, intertwined with funky, untamed improvisation.
11:30 a.m. – The Valley Cats, a Latin-fueled rock band from Colorado’s San Luis Valley, play on East 5th St.
2:30 p.m. Leadville band Groovespeak rocks out at East 5th St.
11:30 a.m. – The Barrelors, a bunch of derelicts distilling a signature blend of blues, rock, twang, and funk perform at East 5th St.
2 p.m. – Carlos Washington’s Steel Horse Swing, a band originating in Colorado that mixes western swing with rodeo and cowboy classics, plays at East 5th St.
10. Cowboy Church
John Peterson leads the longstanding Cowboy Church tradition at 8 a.m. at the historic Tabor Opera House, with songs from Merle Haggard.
11. Food and Craft Fair and More Good Eatin’
A large food and craft fair offers everything from cowboy hats and handmade jewelry to hot, tasty turkey legs, old-fashioned sodas, and much, much more. Check out the many offerings at this Leadville Boom Days highlight!
As you’re rolling into town on Friday, head to Seafood Night at Ski Cooper from 6 to 8 p.m. Enjoy jazz music and a seafood buffet with snow crab legs, calamari, lobster linguine alfredo, teriyaki yellowfin tuna, deep fried clams, shrimp, and more.
Start Saturday and Sunday mornings with pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage at the Lake County Courthouse from 8 to 10:30 a.m.
Savor a BBQ lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Elks Lodge on Saturday and Sunday.
And sample the delicious offerings from Leadville’s many restaurants!
While you’re celebrating Leadville’s mining heritage, take a history tour! Book a Wildflower Special Train Ride (Saturday at 10 a.m.) or a regular daily ride on the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad. Or take a history walking or driving tour of the East Side Mining District and other historic sites.
Tour Leadville’s museums: Healy House and Dexter Cabin, the Heritage Museum, the House with the Eye, the Matchless Mine, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, the Tabor Home, the Tabor Opera House, and Temple Israel. Buy a Passport to Leadville History to see all eight museums and get tour and lodging discounts!
For a fun side trip, drive to Twin Lakes, just half an hour from downtown Leadville. Take the Twin Lakes Interlaken Boat Tour to an 1880s ghost resort, take a walking tour of this historic village, and take time to relax at these sparkling glacial lakes.
See the full schedule for dates and locations.
And of course, find a great place to stay the weekend for three full days of fun.
Happy Boom Days!