Cruising down the river (and the path) |

Cruising down the river (and the path)

April E. Clark
Arts and Entertainment Contributor

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Glenwood Springs, meet Pagosa Springs.

The city with the world’s largest hot springs pool takes on the town with the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring, respectively, as both Colorado locales can claim the Cruise-a-Thong as a major event. Saturday marks Glenwood’s first-ever Cruise-a-Thong Average Jo(e) race, starting in Veltus Park, that made its inaugural splash in Pagosa Springs.

“The event in Pagosa grew exponentially over the past few years and now is holding steady at about 200-plus participants and a park full of spectators,” said event co-founder Tamara Allen. “We originally thought we might have 50 people register in Glenwood but already have exceeded that expectation and have nearly 100 people registered as of Thursday. And we are expecting more day-of registrants.”

Allen said she co-founded and has helped organized the Cruise-a-Thong in Pagosa Springs for seven years. She moved to Glenwood Springs a few years back and thought the historic city nestled along two converging rivers would be an ideal location for the fundraising event.

“After taking a couple friends to the event last summer, they encouraged me to bring the event to Glenwood,” she said. “Though the course and river here different than in Pagosa, the essential items, including the river, public river access and the trail are also here in Glenwood Springs. I also heard from friends that really though there was a niche to be filled with a local event that was friendly to all ages and aptitude.”

The Cruise-a-Thong — dubbed the race for the Average Jo(e) — is a family-friendly triathlon designed for the not-quite-hardcore athlete in all of us, Allen said. The race course features three legs, the first being a cruiser bike ride or other self-propelled method of transportation along the Rio Grande Trail and Midland Avenue. Then participants take to walking in thongs, also known as flip-flops, hence the event’s curiosity-causing name.

“This is truly an event for everyone,” Allen said. “We have had the whole spectrum of folks attend ranging from 83 to 6 months old — and they keep coming back.”

A float down the Roaring Fork River on a tube or other flotation device finishes the course. The race rewards being average, as winners will post the most average times. Judges will also take into consideration bonus points for consumption of edibles such as bacon and Twinkies, gears on the race bike in excess of one, any thongs lost during the race, or any other element that makes a participant more or less average.

“Enjoying a good time is what the event is about,” Allen said. “We intentionally keep the registration fee on the lower end in hopes of getting people out to have a good time — those low cost pieces of entertainment like putting a tube on the river and just enjoying the communities’ great assets (trail and river) in a pretty simplistic fashion.”

Allen said Glenwood Springs businesses have been accommodating in making the city’s inaugural Cruise-a-Thong a rousing event.

“We have had a fantastic response from the community thus far, especially in regard to finding local sponsorship,” Allen said. “I think people like the idea of this event because it is truly is unique, it isn’t just another 5K run, and it is not an expensive evening that one needs to get dressed up to attend. We have also had great support from an event organization team and a host of eager volunteers.”

Glenwood businesses sponsor comfort stations along the course route, offering snacks and even a bit of song and dance for participants during the event.

“We leave the organization of the comfort stations up to the groups that are hosting them,” Allen said. “But I have heard there may be bacon and Twinkies along the way to fuel and replenish calories for our racers.”

The Cruise-a-Thong race starts at 11 a.m. with the course closing at 2 p.m., allowing participants three hours to take their time and have fun while completing the task at hand. Some of the team names already registered — Weef Hearted, Baconators, Freddiefest, We Put the Rage in Average, Fighting Llamas, Team Maisie’s Birthday, Viscious and Delicious, Buck and Duck — provide some indication of the mischievous nature of the event.

But, said Allen, the Cruise-a-Thong is also for a good cause.

“Though the event is silly and fun, there is a more serious side to the event, which is the mission of the 501(c)3 that the proceeds will benefit,” Allen said. “Proceeds from the Cruise-a-Thong go to improving the river experience, and though we do not have a specific project at this point of time, things like signage, creating better public access to the river and enhancing riparian areas are all projects that are under consideration for funding.”

John Tidd, of Glenwood Springs, said he will be joining his co-workers for a day of river recreation, live music, and libations at Veltus Park.

“We have a team from the Pullman, and we plan to win,” he said, as he served customers at the downtown restaurant during a busy Wednesday night. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The race after-party includes an awards ceremony, live music by 4 a.m., food and a New Belgium Brewery-sponsored beer garden.

Registration for the event is still open at

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