Let the grazing begin | VailDaily.com

Let the grazing begin

Shauna Farnell
Daily File PhotoRyan Berry is caught by teammates Mark and Kevin Chard after winning the Big Wheel Classic Saturday afternoon in Vail Village. The three, along with Keith Thompson, were part of team "Baby I'm Gonna Butter Your Bread."

VAIL – In the spirit of untraditional marketing, what could be more untraditional than having a flock of sheep gallop through Vail Village to launch a new event?As it happens, the sheep actually represent a traditional element of the area, according to organizers of The Graze at Vail, Saturday’s event that morphed from what was once the Vail Chili Cook Off, then the Big Wheels and Brew festival.”We like to throw curve balls at people. But with this festival, we’re kind of returning to our roots,” said Joel Heath of Untraditional Marketing, who was also responsible for masterminding The Big Wheel event after a trip home to his parents’ place down memory lane, where he recalled how much fun he had had as a child on his big wheel.”It’s Vail’s heritage,” he said. “Forty years ago, the Vail Valley was just a bunch a pastures used by local ranchers for sheep grazing. Now, amidst a period of exciting redevelopment in Vail, this event will remind us of our humble beginnings and take us back to the days when Vail was just a small town with big dreams.”

The Graze kicks off Saturday with the Running of the Sheep fundraiser for local charities – the Eagle Valley Humane Society, Vail International Hockey, Snowboard Outreach Society, First Descents and the Eagle Valley Land Trust. One sheep will represent each charity and adoption tickets will be sold all day Saturday. Fifty percent of all tickets sold will benefit the selling charity while the other half will be placed in the cash purse for the charity with the winning sheep in the running. At 4 p.m., all five sheep will be released from the starting gates and will race to the finish line down Bridge Street in Vail. Adopters with the highest contributions will be eligible to win a GT mountain bike, a Dagger kayak or a Thule rack.The running of the sheep will be preceded from noon to 2:30 p.m. by some open grazing for the public, wherein chefs from local restaurants will compete in an appetizer contest, the categories of which include mountain comfort, exotic and people’s choice.”The mountain comfort category is more like buffalo wings and things people enjoy in bars,” Heath said. “The exotic category is a bit more foo-foo. We’re expecting eight to 12 restaurants to participate.”New Belgium Brewery will also be in town providing a beer tour with seven different brews, offering samples for $1, which can be bought in $10 packages.

Ski boot racing and dodgeballThe Graze will also offer some options for digestion aid in the form of dodgeball and the Ski Boot Olympics. Dodgeball, like big wheeling, is an element of the festival to remind participants of their elementary school recess days.”This is your day to have a return to dominance,” Heath said. “This is a whole psychological experience for adults – an opportunity to deal with your inner child issues.” The dodgeball stadium will be in the heart of the village with an ongoing tournament Saturday. Rules will be governed by the “American Dodgeball Association of America,” guidelines from Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn’s movie “Dodgeball.” Anyone can register with a coed team of six. Registration is $10 per person or $60 per team. To register, call 926-4700.

The Ski Boot Olympics are also open to all potential Olympians and are reminiscent of The Great Race, another of Vail’s original spring events. Teams of four will compete in the ski boot big wheel race, soccer ball dribble, shuffle and pin the tail on the sheep. Ski boots and costumes are required. For more information, call 926-4700.Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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