Grand Lake prepares for Bliz … er, Wizard of Oz carnival |

Grand Lake prepares for Bliz … er, Wizard of Oz carnival

Tonya Bina
Off Beat/Grand Lake, Colo.
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News | Sky-Hi News

Grand Lake is transforming itself into “Emerald City” in preparation for the town’s annual carnival celebration.

Carnival organizers have been busily decorating Pancho and Lefty’s for the carnival ball, and there are so many lights and theme decorations, “you’d think they were putting on a Broadway show,” said Pancho’s owner Bob King.

I’ve already been sternly warned not to call this year’s celebration its initial name, “The Blizzard of Oz,” because the event’s lead organizer Suzi Maki is worried the word “Blizzard” uttered enough in the days leading up to the event would provoke a white-out with “sideways snow” – bound to spoil the day of the carnival. Maki struck the word from all carnival marketing to keep it from being sent out “into the universe.”

So we’ll take her advice, and refer to this year’s carnival theme as “Emerald City,” so as to not tip off any Wicked Weather Warlock of the West – at least for that Saturday only.

If you’ve ever been to Grand Lake’s Winter Carnival in the past, you can be sure to see plenty of participation, thanks to the dedication of Maki.

For the past decade, this “Grand Poobah” has been leading core volunteers who have become expert at fulfilling their events of interest, whether it be human bowling, teapot curling, or on the decoration committee. At the start of this year’s planning two months ago, Maki had the team watch the full movie “The Wizard of Oz” for inspiration.

So you can bet you’ll spot every reference from that classic – from flying monkey to Munchkin – during the one-day Carnival. The decorations, the elaborate snow sculptures created by businesses on Grand Avenue, or the costumes royalty contestants and others wear are sure to be quite “oztentatious.”

Bernie McGinn at the town’s public works is seeing to it there’s enough snow transferred from storage to augment where needed, on Grand Avenue, in front of businesses for snow sculptures, and in the town park for flag football and snowman building.

The signature event of Carnival has grown to be the bed sled race. I happen to know at least one older model of bed sled has been traded in for a sleeker, faster version to make this year’s race more competitive.

And there’s a couple of new activities this year.

A pre-party carnival event takes place at Grumpy’s on Friday night (also a must-see in decorations), during which there will be appetizers, drink specials, announcements and last-minute event sign-up sheets.

Then on Carnival day, Feb. 4, the showing of the “Wizard of Oz” will take place in the community house during the day. And at 6 p.m. down by the lake, “wish laterns” will be released by those who purchase them in support of Grand Lake’s Fireworks Committee, which all proceeds from the carnival support. People will be selling the lanterns throughout the day for $5 apiece. “That will be a show in itself, unless it’s really windy,” Maki said. (Maki again worried about the weather on behalf of all of us.)

And yes, we just saw this done at Winter Park’s carnival. “I can’t believe they were doing the same thing we were talking about,” Maki said. Great minds think alike.

Two hours after the launch of the lanterns, the launch of green fireworks takes place at the beachfront.

Maki refers to the fireworks as “the end of kid time, and the start of adult time,” since The Oz Ball begins right afterwards.

This year may be the last hurrah of Maki’s Carnival leadership. Sadly, she says she’s hanging up her Poobah hat.

“It’s time for somebody else, time for new blood, new ideas,” she said. “I think the young people of the community need to understand it’s getting to be their turn.”

“I don’t blame her,” said longtime volunteer Doris Braun, of Grand Lake. “We all don’t get any younger.”

But then added: “She does an awesome job. I don’t want her to quit.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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