Broomball, snow sculpting and a cardboard sled derby. None of these games were available at the X-Games in Aspen. But these events can all be found at the Winter Games in Meeker, with competition open to anyone who wants to participate.
The Winter Games had been a feature of Meeker winters for years until 1999, when they mysteriously ended. This year, the Rio Blanco Parks and Recreation District, in conjunction with the Meeker Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association, revived the two-day event, scheduled for Valentine's Day weekend.
"People talk about how much fun it used to be," said Heidi Ham, director of the recreation district. "We just wanted to do something silly for free."
The games open on Saturday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m., with a broomball tournament on the frozen pond in Circle Park. Broomball is a game similar to hockey, but played in boots rather than skates, with a small ball instead of a puck, and with brooms rather than sticks. Ham said many players duct tape the straw of their broom to maximize firepower.
Ham said she hopes to organize brackets before the tournament begins, so it would be best if teams called the recreation district to register before Saturday's tournament. The winning team will be awarded a large trophy, which will be passed to the victorious team each successive year.
While the games are in progress, many of the downtown merchants will offer sales and specials, Ham said. The Chamber of Commerce will offer free hot chocolate and cider, and provide a tent in which winter enthusiasts can warm themselves.
A snow sculpture competition will be held in front of the Rio Blanco County Courthouse from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Three judges will award $25 in chamber bucks to the most creative entries.
Cardboard sleds will also be judged on Saturday. Entrants can enter any snowcraft made of cardboard and tape, Ham said. Prizes go to the three most creative entries. There is no registration for either the snow sculpture competition or the cardboard craft derby show.
Saturday evening, parents can drop off the kids, age 12 and younger, at the Meeker Child Care Center and head down to the Snow Ball at the Fairfield Center. Paonia blues artists Big Bottom Band will perform. The ball is the weekend's only pay-to-play event. Cost is $10 per couple and ID will be checked at the door, so you had better be 21.
Day 2 kicks off at 10 a.m. with the cross-country ski and snowshoe adventure at the sheepdog trials property. Snow trekkers will brave an obstacle course on cross-country skis or snowshoes.
A disc golf tournament will be held in Paintbrush Park at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Ham said it should be a great event for the entire family. Because the tournament begins with a shotgun start, it would be most convenient if teams registered with the recreation district.
Then at 1 p.m., the games wrap up with the cardboard craft derby as a grand finale at the Paintbrush Park Sledding Hill. The cardboard crafts that were judged for aesthetics the day before will be tested during a race down the sledding hill. The first competitor across the finish line wins a huge trophy that, like the broomball trophy, will be passed to the consecutive winners as long as the games shall last.
And the games will be carried on from now on, Ham said. She hopes to add a new event each year.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at email@example.com.