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In 1889, 26-year-old musician Emma Crawford moved to Manitou Springs from Massachusetts, seeking relief for her tuberculosis. Many made the trek to the region to take advantage of the mineral springs and dry mountain air to fight the disease. Despite her condition, Crawford climbed nearby Red Mountain to the summit, and decided that day she would be buried on the mountain top. She succumbed to her disease in December 1891. It took 12 pallbearers, working in shifts, to carry her coffin to the top of the 7,200-foot peak to bury it — four decades later, it took two fierce storms to send that coffin racing back down. For its sesquicentennial, Manitou Springs commemorates the terrifying event with their 28th annual running of the Emma Crawford Coffin Races to send her back up.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, each five-person coffin team, with four “pallbearers” and an “Emma Crawford” as passenger or driver, will race their wheeled coffins up the 585-foot course in pairs immediately after the Emma Crawford Coffin Parade. All “vehicles” must abide by strict guidelines, verified during the morning tech inspection by the Rocky Mountain Mustangers, a local car club.

Jenna Gallas, marketing coordinator for Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, is expecting a record-breaking crowd. The public will be able to arrive early (more on that in a moment) to check out the coffins in the “fan zone” ahead of the parade, which kicks off at noon sharp. Plan to be festively dressed for the occasion; it’s Manitou, after all. “If you don’t come in costume,” Gallas says, “you’re gonna look weird.”

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The coffin races began in 1995 after a fabled conversation amongst folks associated with the Chamber to boost tourism during the shoulder season when the weather changes and traffic calms down. Around a kitchen table, they decided to do something weird. “’Let’s stick with the legend of Miss Crawford and let’s race a coffin on wheels.’ And that’s exactly what they did,” Gallas says. The first race was small, with six coffins put together by local fire departments and media teams, but the event has grown over the decades.

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Thanks to the pandemic, this year’s race is the first in three years, but the town has celebrated Crawford with other events in the interim. Some teams still came to town to show off their coffins anyway. Pre-COVID, the 2019 Emma Crawford Coffin Race attracted teams from four different countries. While this year’s festivities can’t say the same, there are 55 teams lined up so far, arriving from as far away as Iowa and California. With a cap of 70 teams, expect to see up to 35 heats of fun and macabre themed vehicles racing up the street to win awards.

Starting at 7 a.m., Manitou Avenue will be closed to all but those who live in town or have parking permits. Manitou will run shuttles from the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, where parking is free, and with a $5 shuttle ticket partygoers can ride in or out of Manitou between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (MMT bus route 3 will continue to run to Memorial Park from Downtown Colorado Springs, but routes 33 and 36 around Manitou will be temporarily stopped.) Following the races, awards will be presented at the newly renovated Soda Springs Park and Manitou Avenue will open for an elaborate after party and dance festivities.

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For those who can’t make it in person, race results will be logged at CoffinRace.com and the event will be livestreamed. Gallas is looking forward to it. “It’s our biggest day of the year.”

Bad Art Night

Do you think expectations for craft and expertise are a bit too high for art-making gatherings? Well, Bad Art Night is here to provide some creative relief; you don’t even need to bring supplies. “Join us to create the most ridiculous pieces of art you can think of — from painting to collage to sculpture — while enjoying snacks and refreshments. At the end of the night, there will be awards for the most over-the-top bad artwork!” Friday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m.; Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Drive, visit tinyurl.com/BadArt21c to register.

Rocky Mountain Mystery Hike

If you’re up for an educational and enlightening nature hike, the Rocky Mountain Mystery Hike provides it. Advised for walkers and hikers aged 10 and up, the 3-mile hike invites you to solve puzzles and find clues to learn a lot more about Colorado Springs’ inventions and scientific discoveries. Sunday, Oct. 23, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, 1805 N. 30th St., visit tinyurl.com/RMMHike for more info.