Racers venture to Arizona

Brief by Central Staff

Pack-burro racing – March 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

Central Colorado may be the birthplace and spiritual center of the sport of pack-burro racing, but the southeastern Arizona town of Safford may soon be leading the way when it comes to staging one of these ærobic rodeos.

On Feb. 3, 17 pack-burro racers, only two of them not from Colorado, stepped up to the starting line of the Second Annual Arizona Pack-Burro Race. Five Central Colorado residents and their burros won, placed, or showed in the men’s and women’s divisions.

Top honors went to Barbara Dolan of Buena Vista, who, with her burro named Sailor, was the overall winner and top female competitor. Colorado Central columnist and Westcliffe-area ne’er-do-well Hal Walter and his burro Clyde was second overall and the top male competitor. In an effort to massage Hal’s slightly bruised gender pride, it’s been noted that both burros were males.

Area radio-talk-show guest and Buena Vista resident Curtis Imrie and burro Oscar were the second-place male team and Safford resident Brian Palmer finished third. Mary Walter and Virgil of Westcliffe were the second female team, followed by Colorado Central marketing manager Sue Conroe and Peckinpah.

The town of Safford makes a big to-do out of the burro race, replete with a “Meet the Pack-Burro Racers” get-together at the local western-wear store, a Miss Arizona Pack Burro Pageant at Salida native Rand Conroe’s bar, The Stadium Club, and a parade in which racers are required to participate. A local FM radio station, linked by radio to checkpoints along the race course, broadcast up-to-the-minute details as the race panned out over the 15 miles of rocky Arizona trails on the shoulders of Mount Graham, second highest point in Saguaroland.

Race Director Rand says that upwards of 3,000 spectators — 70% from out of town — rode in the buses to the finish line at Discovery Park, the visitor center for the observatories, planetarium and theater. The event raised more than $5,000 for Discovery Park.