RED CLIFF, Colorado - The Man of the Cliff burst into Eagle County this weekend like a log jam unclogged, drawing record numbers into town for the fourth consecutive year.-
Last year, on Man of the Cliff Saturday at Mango's Restaurant in Red Cliff, organizers issued 1,200 wristbands to participants and spectators who planned on consuming alcohol while they were in attendance. This year, that number jumped to 2,000, with promoters putting the total crowd numbers closer to 3,000 over the course of the weekend.-
But one person who wasn't there was three-time winner Ray Sallee, making it anyone's ball game at the multi-discipline, lumberjack-styled competition.
Fresh off his participation in the TransRockies trail running race, Vail firefighter and former Man of the Cliff runner-up Johnny LoFaro came in looking for a win.-
"I was hoping for something," he said.
What he found was a first-ever Man of the Cliff tie for first. An impromptu tie-break shootout commenced in the form of an ax- and spear-throwing duel, where Edwards resident Sean Hanagan javalined a couple bullseyes for the win.-
"Came down to the end," said Hanagan. "It was great."
Women of the Cliff
This year's Man of the Cliff event saw 30 percent female participation, a higher ratio than in years past, said organizer and co-founder Amanda Williams.-
Female overall winner Jaclyn Randall came in all the way from Lake Tahoe to exemplify the potential for women in the event.-
"The only thing I brought with me was a shotgun, my snowboarding and climbing and camping gear, some clothes, and my dog," she said. "I've been camping out in the woods above Red Cliff for the last four days waiting for this."
Upon being announced as winner, Randall, who's keg-tossing skills went unmatched in competition, took a break from drinking beer directly from the pitcher to strike a few rock-star poses with the new chainsaw she had won for her first-place accomplishment.
"I live out of my tent right now in the woods, so I intend to build a house with this," she said.
Her co-competitor, Kelly Hanagan of Edwards, put together a tough-to-top performance of her own, beating out even the men in the sledge-hammer tossing competition with her two perfect scores in the opening round.-
"This was my first year," she said, adding that she didn't do anything to practice or prepare for the event prior to competing. "I just had encouragement from my husband (men's winner Sean Hanagan)."
Kristin Forsch, a spokesperson with presenting sponsor Stranahan's Whiskey, said the female participation is one of her favorite aspects of the event.
"I know the ratio was pretty good this year, but I'd like to see even more women out here," she said. "Women can get out there and do as many great events as the men can."
Forsch said the-quintessentially-Colorado atmosphere is what attracted the Denver-area distillery to Man of the Cliff.-
"It's just the spirit of Colorado embodied in one event, and for a great cause," she said.-
In the three years Man the Cliff had been around coming into this weekend, the event had raised approximately $20,000 for First Descents, a charity that provides outdoor adventures for young adults with cancer. This year, the larger crowds helped to break the single-year Man of the Cliff fundraising record, bringing in another $13,000 for the Vail Valley-founded charity.
"We definitely intend to continue this great partnership in the years to come," said Forsch.-
Guests of the Cliff
Like a stump in the wood-chopping competition, organizers estimate the crowd numbers at this year's Man of the Cliff to be split down the middle -- half locals and half visitors from the Front Range.-
But the tourism draw wasn't exclusive to the Denver area.-
Chase Turberville and his wife Mary Britton Senseney came in from Georgia specifically for Man of the Cliff; they had been planning the trip since December.-
"We've always wanted to come but this was the first year we were actually able to get away, so put money aside, booked flights and rented a house in Minturn," said Turberville. "It's everything I was hoping for, a really incredible event."
Turberville said he started growing a beard as soon as he was certain they were coming. By Sunday, it was no less than three inches long at any point on his face.
"I really wanted to get into the role," he said. "Like Daniel Day-Lewis."