Winter festival brings out Durango’s silly side with the chance to ‘get your geek on’

It has taken the Herald a few extra days to offer our opinion about this year’s Snowdown because we have been trying to figure out what is so funny about the “Get your geek on” theme, and despite extensive glasses-cleaning, pencil-sharpening and Internet research, we remain stumped. Maybe it is an off year. Regardless, the annual winter celebration offers its traditional array of silliness, fun, community-building and comedy – a welcome mix while we are on the short side of the sun.

Merriam-Webster says a geek can be a carnival performer who bites the heads off snakes or chickens, an enthusiast of the technical arts or “a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked.” The last resonated most strongly with the Herald’s editorial board, and we take cold comfort in the fact that our closets apparently are full of theme-appropriate costumes. Wednesday’s Snowdown Fashion Do’s and Don’ts luncheon confirmed this. But that was just the beginning of a five-day full-on geek-fest, punctuated, of course, by nightly performances of the community’s guiltiest pleasure: the Snowdown Follies.

Thursday’s schedule provided opportunities to demonstrate one’s eating prowess – for oysters and hot wings – as well as proficiency at growing hair, cross-dressing, arm wrestling and playing children’s games. Talent comes in many forms.

Today, though, brings Snowdown’s main event: the light parade, which will begin at 6 p.m. This distinctly Durango tradition undergirds the traditional components of a community parade – fire trucks, waving children, marching bands – with a slightly edgier tone. The Jazzercise group never disappoints, nor do the hot-air balloon burners blasting the crowd. From there, revelers can head to ski softball at Fort Lewis College or do some uphill/downhill laps at Chapman Hill. For those seeking a less-strenuous evening, an Xbox Madden competition at Bent Urban Sports Bar might be a good fit – or perhaps the music geek trivia contest at Derailed Saloon, or even rock, paper, scissors at Brew Pub & Kitchen.

On Saturday, a full range of activities awaits beginning with the hot-air balloon rally and mass ascension at 8 a.m. in the Animas Valley. Snow games will begin at 10 a.m. at Chapman Hill with tube races, a tug-of-war and an obstacle course, among other fun kid entertainment. Durango’s dogs and cats can demonstrate their fashion sense at McDonald’s; Bloody Mary and chili makers and takers can unite at the fairgrounds; and those who enjoyed it so much the first time can revisit prom at Sorrel Sky Gallery.

These are just a handful of the events that comprise a truly wide-ranging celebration that showcases Durango’s fun side as well as its unrelenting effort to be a community of involved and amused residents and visitors. That there is a philanthropic side to many Snowdown events – the Durango Winter Sports Foundation and La Plata Open Space Conservancy are the beneficiaries of the spaghetti dinner and wine tasting, respectively – is further evidence of how Snowdown reflects the community’s character. So, too, is the fact that some Snowdown revelers will take things farther than they should. The bad comes with the good.

On balance, though, Snowdown breathes some warmth into winter’s chilliest days, and we welcome the chance to get our geek on.