Wild racin’, beer tastin’- and hot chili too. | VailDaily.com

Wild racin’, beer tastin’- and hot chili too.

Jennifer Gersbach
Tyler Miller launches his big wheel off a ramp in the big air competition Sunday on the final day of the Big Wheel and Chili festival in Vail Village.

Remember the good ol’ days of Big Wheels – and freedoggin’ it like a wild child down your neighborhood street? Well just when you thought those days were gone … think again. The CME Big Wheel N’ Chili Festival returns to Vail Village Saturday.

From noon to 2 p.m. some of Vail’s premier restaurants will be dishing out their best and most exotic chili. Concocted with the intent to win first prize and of course bragging rights for a year; these recipe’s are sure to make your mouth water.

Helping this year to wash down the chili, and making its debut to the event, is the Mirco-Brew Festival wherein some of Colorado’s best microbrews will be on tap. Beer will be flowing from noon to 2 p.m.

In conjunction with the food and beer, the Big Wheel races will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m. when the awards will be given to the fastest team. With the addtion of the Big Wheel race nearly five years ago, the festival has really been able to show the fun side of Vail.

“It has allowed Vail to go retro, and show that it can be fun and down to earth too,” said Joel Heath, president and CEO of Untraditional Marketing.

The Big Wheel competition will begin at the top of Bridge Street where 32, four-person teams will prepare to rip down at speeds of nearly 20 mph, hoping to cross the finish line with the fastest time. Last year the top speed was 21 mph – which might even qualify as a world record. Teams trying to wow the crowd will be dressed up and giving their own red-hot flare to the races.

After several surveys determined that Vail was too snobby and not enough fun, the Big Wheels where just what the town needed to spice things up.

“It allows the community a chance to relive their childhood,” said Heath, who thought of adding the Big Wheel race to the Chili Festival while laid up with an injury at his childhood home in Boulder. He noted that the races add a little more meat to the festival which is great for the valley.

“The event creates more energy in the core of the Vail Valley,” said Ian Anderson, communications manager of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau.

Teams are on a first come first serve basis, and one Big Wheel will be issued to each registered team. Pads are required and only duck tape and grease can be added to enhance the toy’s performance. The real performance strategy therefore will come from the strength of the team.

“The catcher – by far, has the toughest job,” said Anderson, recalling last year’s race.

The catcher must stop the racing team members from running into haybarrels at the bottom of Bridge Street. And luckily, after five years, no one has been injured – with of course the exception of some slightly bruised egos.

The Tap Room won last year, taking the trophy away from Vail’s 8150 who had the traveling Stanley Cup-like trophy hanging in their bar.

“We asked them to make us the biggest and ugliest trophy they could,” said Heath, referring to the 3-foot-tall award. It’s zany and lots of fun.

You can register for the event by going to BIGWHEELVAIL.COM.

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