For the third year in a row, the Gunnison Chamber Events Committee is bringing Mardi Gras to Gunnison with the annual Gunni Gras Parade and Pub Crawl, but this year it has a fun twist — a dog of a different sort.
This year’s Gunni Gras parade on Feb. 22 will feature the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Not only will the Wienermobile join the parade, but it will also be parked outside the Gunnison Arts Center after the parade, “For a bit of Wienermobile viewing and fun,” said Celeste Helminski, director of the Chamber of Commerce.
According to Oscarmayer.com, the Weinermobile was created in 1936 during the Great Depression, but was taken off the road in 1977. Nine years later, for its 50th birthday, the Weinermobile was reintroduced to the public. Drawing enormous crowds of people, Oscar Mayer decided to create a fleet of six Wienermobiles to travel the country, bringing people fun and hot dog joy.
The Weinermobile is 23 feet long and is created entirely of fiberglass. Not only is the giant hot dog a site to see, it also travels with a complete kitchen to serve Oscar Mayer weiners. Along with the kitchen, the Weinermobile is equipped with a stereo system that plays 21 versions of the “Oscar Mayer Wiener” jingle.
Aside from the Weinermobile making its debut in Gunnison, this year’s Gunni Gras has a lot in store for the community. Just like in past years, the Western Colorado University Jazz Band will be performing at the Gunnison Arts Center for the community party after the parade. The party lasts until around 5 p.m.
To keep with the Mardi Gras tradition, the Chamber of Commerce appoints a king and queen of Gunni Gras to preside over the parade and show appreciation to people who benefit the community. This year, the king and queen are Pam and Pat Montgomery, representing the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley.
“We thank Pam and Pat for all they do for the valley,” said Helminski.
The parade also consists of groups of people, called “krewes,” who get together to make a float. This year, Tammi Gardner, co-founder of Gunni Gras, and her krewe the Ice Pirates are excited to take on their third year in the parade. Gardner is also excited for the past king and queen krewe, known in Mardi Gras as the “Monarchs.”
“They just did that by themselves,” said Gardner. “It’s really cool to see the event evolve more and more each year.”
Gardner moved to Gunnison from Natchez, Miss., where Mardi Gras was a huge celebration. Three years ago, when the chamber was looking for events during this quieter time of year, Garder and other co-founder Linda Rees brought the idea to the chamber to boost community spirit.
“I was pretty sure they celebrated Mardi Gras in Crested Butte, but not Gunnison,” said Gardner. “I thought it was not only great for the community, but for local businesses as well.”
The second part of the annual event is the Pub Crawl, a tour of six local restaurants via shuttle service running from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. This year, the venues featured on the crawl are The Dive Pub, Blackstock Bistro, Gunnison Pizza Company, Ol’ Miner Steakhouse, Palisades Restaurant and Garlic Mike’s. Each restaurant will serve a discounted New Orleans inspired food and beverage for attendees of the crawl.
Some of the New Orleans specials featured on this year's annual Pub Crawl are “hurricanes” and shrimp Po’ Boys at Ol’ Miner, a drink special of purple rain and dry rub Cajun wings as well as Cajun dank fries at Gunnison Pizza Company. The Dive will be serving Jambalaya as their dish as well as hurricanes for the drink.
Tickets for the Pub Crawl are $10 each and can be purchased at the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce, or online through Eventbrite — Gunni Gras.
With the Weinermobile attending this year’s Gunni Gras, the event does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
“Eventually — and I mean way down the road — I would love to see a whole weekend event,” said Gardner. “Something that really gets people excited.”
2020 GUNNI-GRAS INFORMATION
Saturday, Feb. 22
> Chamber will assign participants' locations prior to the parade start.
> Main Street will close at 3 p.m. and line up will begin at 2:45 p.m. on East Ohio Street.
> The parade will begin at 3:15 p.m.
> The parade will end at South Main Street in front of the Gunnison Arts Center (GAC).
>Entries will stay out in front of the GAC until 4:30 p.m.
> All participants will need to have entry cleared by 5 p.m. to re-open South Main Street
> Six stops on the route: Blackstock Bistro, Garlic Mike’s, Palisades Restaurant, Ol’ Miner Steakhouse, the Dive Pub, and Gunnison Pizza Company.
> Crawl takes place from 5-8 p.m.
> Shuttle service provided by chamber member Alpine Express, making it easy to hit all the crawl locations.
> Must be 21+ to participate.
> Purchase tickets online. $10 gets you food and drink discounts and shuttle service.