New Castle fired up for Burning Mountain Festival |

New Castle fired up for Burning Mountain Festival

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” One man wanted to see the parade at Burning Mountain Festival so badly he ran along Highway 6.

Wearing a green shirt, shorts and a straw cowboy hat, he’d arrived after police closed down the road leading into downtown to make way for the festival’s parade. But that didn’t seem to diminish the man’s enthusiasm for the festivities.

Farther down the street, Candyce Lowery said she came out Saturday to watch her granddaughter and other family members in the parade. She watched Katie Fuleki, a Coal Ridge High School cheerleader. And Zoe Fuleki, 10, was there as an “aspiring” cheerleader, Lowery said.

“I’d probably be in my cool house if not for them,” she said.

Lowery has been to the festival many of the 17 years she’s lived in New Castle. She said it’s a reunion for many people.

Each year, New Castle residents, friends and family gather in the hot summer sun to celebrate underneath the burning coal seam. The “burning” part of Burning Mountain Festival usually is no joke with scorching summer heat. But Lowery found this year’s temperatures a bit cooler despite there being not a spot of clouds in the sky.

“It’s a lot cooler than it usually is,” she said. “Usually it’s so hot.”

Around noon, New Castle was about 85 degrees with a high expected around 90, the National Weather Service said.

A shirtless man with a large white beard, a black do-rag and tattoos casually took in the parade from a spot east of downtown. He leaned back in a swinging chair in the shade.

“They call me Bear,” he said. “Bear Ray.”

Having just moved to New Castle from Rifle a little more than a month ago, he didn’t realize the parade would be starting Saturday morning. But when he saw people gathering and the street close down he grabbed a spot in the shade outside his place and took it all in: fire trucks and all kinds of floats; smiling girls wearing Mardi Gras beads and yelling “number one!”; and future Coal Ridge High School Titans football players riding three to an ATV, also with beads and smiles.

Ray found the festival similar to the Walnut Festival from his hometown of Clinton, Mo.

“It’s pretty good so far,” he said about Burning Mountain Festival. “I just sit back and watch the young people have fun.”

This year’s festival included, among other things, a chalk drawing contest, a silent auction, the Mardi Gras parade, live music and vendors with food and arts and crafts.

Steve Higgs said the music seemed better this year and the Mardi Gras theme was fun. He chuckled recalling how men had dressed up in drag as part of Friday night’s festivities.

“There were guys dancing around with their guts sticking out,” Higgs said, standing over a sizzling batch of barbecue ribs on a mean-looking large, black smoker.

Higgs, with Cooter’s Country Catering, said he got the Stump’s Smoker custom built from Texas. He said the gravity fed charcoal burner in the smoker can operate for 30 hours on a single bag of charcoal.

Cooter’s Country Catering’s slogan is, “BBQ so good you’ll slap your granny!”

Higgs said that was actually more of a term of endearment from his southern roots from Florida. He likes working the festival atmosphere at Burning Mountain Festival.

There’s plenty of hungry people around and lots of chances to get people tasting the barbecue.

“I’d say we had about 300 pounds of meat, and I wish I had 500 because I’d probably sell it all,” he said.

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