Photography by Peter Storbridge
I stood in the hot Colorado sun, surrounded by thousands of costumed people, as a young woman on stage divorced her car and married a bicycle. I wasn’t on drugs, I wasn’t hammered and I certainly wasn’t dreaming. This was real life in the middle of what I can only best describe as a steam punk carnival. This was New Belgium’s own traveling celebration of the bicycle: the Tour de Fat.
Take a stroll around Denver and you will quickly see that bicycles are an immensely popular way to get around. Hell, they’re popular in general in the sate of Colorado. New Belgium showed their appreciation for the two-wheeled people mover years ago when they crated Fat Tire, their pale ale prominently featuring a bike on the label. They took that concept one step further by creating the Tour de Fat, a traveling festival that hits several cities per year. This year marked my first time attending and I fully anticipate many future attendances.
Walking through the park where the event was to be held, I had no idea what to expect. I know there was a bike parade that circled my block that morning, but I was resting up from a karaoke-filled evening the night before. As I got closer to the site of the event, I started seeing some pretty awesome and outrageous costumes and outfits. Realizing this was a key attraction to the Tour, I felt extremely fucking underdressed. I also realized jeans were a poor choice since it was 96 degrees without a single cloud in the sky. I was going to have to be a shade monster to survive this outing.
The first amazing thing about this event was the amount of bikes that were racked up along the entrance. I screwed up and didn’t take a picture, but there must’ve been a couple thousand bikes locked up outside the carnival. These racks were clearly brought in for the event. A field filled with hippies playing Frisbee and smoking their funny cigarettes usually occupied the space.
The second image forever burned into my retinas upon walking into the grounds was a man’s near-bare ass. One cheek painted red, the other, blue to go with his split-painted body. He rocked his banana hammock like a true champion and was probably one of the most appropriately dressed people for the weather. I held out hope that I would catch sight of some lady ass hanging out at some point. Sadly, that hope would never be fulfilled.
Once I got away from Mr. Ass, I encountered an amazing carnival of bicycles, shows and other oddities spread around the vast fair grounds. In the center of it all was a bike pit littered with a ton of crazy bikes and unicycles that were so twisted and strange, they could only have been pulled directly from the head of Salvador Dali. The event also boasted several stages featuring music and other side act types of shows. I spent a few minutes in front of a variety show on one stage that featured a slightly demented Emcee, hat juggler and some other talents that I didn’t stay to watch.
I spent most of my time in front of the music stage enjoying the styling’s of The Night Sweats and He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister. We hid in the shade, listened to music, drank some beers and watched all the crazy costumes and outfits around us. For a hung over Saturday afternoon, I can’t say I could think of a better way to spend it. New Belguim beers are excellent in the heat, and I had to have at least a few obligatory Fat Tires. Before the last band took the stage, we were treated to a crazy dance competition and, the near-climax of the day, the presentation of the volunteer who agreed to donate their car to charity to receive a bicycle. It was a wonderful ceremony where they brought out gigantic apogees to represent the bride and groom. The donated car would be sold and added to the total amount raised for Bike Denver (which ended up being about $75,000, a phenomenal amount for a wonderful organization in town).
The Tour de Fat is the perfect amount of weirdness and fun. It was clearly a family event with entertainment for all ages, and enough beer to let the parents have a good time. If it comes through your town or a town nearby, go grab whatever costume or crazy outfit you might have getting dust in the closet and go check it the fuck out. It gets the Sly Stamp of Approval.
An open mind and a few beers can make anywhere an adventure.