A grand display in Vail | VailDaily.com

A grand display in Vail

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyPassenger Zach Davis, right, waits for his driver, John Martino during the first leg of last year's Colorado Grand in Vail.

VAIL, Colorado – Some of the world’s most rare – and most valuable – cars were once surrounded by a flock of sheep in the name of fun and charity.

That happened years ago, during one of the first runs of the Colorado Grand. George Gillett owned Vail Resorts at the time, and was running one of his own cars – a 1950s-era racing Jaguar – in the event he helped create.

“We were probably stopped for 30 minutes by all these sheep,” Gillett said. “They had no idea what kind of cars they were around.”

That was the original, and continuing, point of this event – to take cars usually seen on museum podiums, or locked away in warehouses, and give them a good, 1,000-mile workout over some of Colorado’s most scenic roads.

The event also has raised more than $2.5 million for Colorado charities over its 20 years. Most of that money has gone to a fund that helps the widows and orphans of Colorado State Patrol officers. But Kaylee Brennand, who helps run the event, said the Colorado Grand has also contributed money to scholarship funds in the small towns where the traveling circus stops for lunch. Money has also gone to community funds in those towns.

And the event’s founders fully intended the Colorado Grand to provide some education into automotive history.

“That’s why we picked the smaller communities, so those kids would have a chance to see these cars,” Gillett said. “The idea was to give something back to the state.”

And that something is given without velvet ropes or “do not touch” signs.

“Kids crawl all over the cars during the lunch stops,” Brennand said. “The owners are thrilled to see it.”

Gas in your blood?

The event participants are also happy to get the cars out for a workout, something the various routes always provide. This year the tour took a southern swing going from Vail through Salida and on to Crested Butte Monday, then to Telluride, Durango and points in between the next two days. The cars came from Telluride to Vail Thursday. Most of the time the participants motor along at or under the posted limits. But out in the remote areas, with Colorado State Patrol motorcycle officers making sure the roads are safe, there are a few chances to really open the throttles on these cars, most of which were raced when new.

The vast majority made it under their own power, too. As of Wednesday evening, only a couple of cars had been forced to drop out.

Aside from the fun, though, Gillett brought a crafty idea in bringing the event to the Vail Valley.

Until just a couple of years ago, the Colorado Grand started and ended in Beaver Creek. That tradition started when that resort was just ending its first decade in business.

“We thought, who better to market Beaver Creek to than the people who owned these cars?” he said.

As Beaver Creek became well-known, so did the Colorado Grand. And Gillett plans to tour the plaza at Lionshead today to see the cars and drivers who participated this year.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.

If you have even a little gasoline in your blood, neither should you.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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