Lou Bunch rides again

Barbara Lawlor, Nederland.  Mountain tradition celebrates a frozen grandfather in Nederland and a good-hearted brothel owner in Central City. The Frozen Dead Guy Festival and the Lou Bunch Bed Races bring in the crowds, the money and the fun.

In March, the FDGD Festival boasted a record attendance, and last Sunday, June 17, 2016, the Madam Lou Bunch Bed Races lined the streets with visitors who enjoyed the beer, the brats and the band as the beds careened down the main street of Central City carrying sporting girls, babies, deer, cowgirls and a lot of long underwear wearing guys.

First time racers groaned, “It’s not as easy as it looks.”

loou bunch gunslingers
The race is downhill, and then it’s uphill. First of all, there’s the guy, almost always a guy, who gets to push the bed on wheels down the hill and then there’s the teammate who gets to push the bed up the hill, a test of pure strength and determination. The third partner is usually a woman, in many cases, a scantily clad woman, who screams and hangs on for on dear life.

Lou Bunch was a Madam of Central City when gold brought many men into town, men who appreciated Lou Bunch and her sporting girls, or ladies of the evening. When a flu epidemic swept through the area, the women cared for the sick and dying miners. In 1910, Lou Bunch was gone, but a gravestone was placed in her honor, “A Lady loved by Many.”

Last Saturday, June 18, 2016 couldn’t have been a more perfect day for the 42 racing beds, with sunshine, blue sky and a happy crowd. The Blast band kept the spectators revved, and the loaded french fries kept them fueled.

lou bunch girls

Before the races began, the Sporting Girls took their dance to the streets, culminating in the traditional can-can, which sparked whistles and cheers from the crowd.

Then the sheriff and the bad guys, known to the locals as The Wild Bunch, had a good old fashioned, blazing gun showdown in the middle of the street. When the bad guys took their last breath and dramatic collapse to the ground, one of them started laughing and shouted, “I am tired of being shot.”

As the stringent smell of gunpowder drifted away, the madams and the sporting girls led a parade to the starting line at the top of the hill, followed by the teams in their thematic costumes.

lou bunch bed two
The first team to head down the hill was the Red Dolly with a Peter Pan motif. They were off to a shaky start, zig-zagging erratically, until they totally lost it and did a 360, barely able to stay out of the crowd. That cost them some time.

Johnny Z’s team, all in black, had a slow but straight run, with no mistakes, that ultimately gave them a third place win, making the trip down and up in 84 seconds.

Next up was the Famous Bonanza/Easy Street Casino team which made a clean run down the middle of the street, but the runner’s body was slanted to keep it that way.

The technique worked and the team in the striped shirt took first place with a time of 82 seconds.

lou bunch band

The crowd favorite, the Central City Opera team, had a great run but not fast enough to place in the race, their “Ballad of Baby Doe” costumes took first in the creative department, however.

Century Casino had black vests and white t-shirts and their rider wore a long, satin gown, which might have done fine, had the train of her dress not gotten caught up in the bed wheels. They had to walk the bed up and then race again and by that time, the pushers had run out of oomph.

1859 Mindful Dispensary team from Black Hawk had to hold onto their cowboy hats as they made a strong, steady run, fast enough to claim second place. Their rider, Frances Hodge, said it was her first time to be a part of the event and she had a great time.

lou bunch  great 1859

It might be a bit bawdy, maybe a tad rambunctious, hot and sweaty, but the Lou Bunch Bed Race is always fun for everyone and a great way to build community among the Black Hawk and Central City employees and opera visitors.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.