Durango was BMX central on the Western Slope on Sunday, with 192 racers from Colorado and New Mexico competing in the Durango State Championship Qualifier races.
Jordan Rupe, recreation coordinator for the Durango Parks and Recreation Department, estimated the event brought 600 people to town to support the young riders.
Cyclists from ages 7 to 12 competed in qualifying races. The event is one of 14 state championship qualifying races for the State Championship race to be held Sept. 12 in Grand Junction.
“We pair up with Cortez every year,” Rupe said. “They held their state qualifier (Saturday). We brought in a pretty fair crowd to the region.”
About 85 youth cyclists participate in Durango BMX at any one time, with the club holding its races weekly each Friday from May to October at the Durango BMX course at Cundiff Park.
As many as 126 cyclists have shown up for this summer’s Friday races at the Durango BMX course, Rupe said.
Eric Westerman of Carbondale said his son participated in both the Durango and Cortez state qualifying events.
Saturday night, the Westermans camped at Mancos State Park and had dinner at the Mancos Brewing Co.
“They are fun events. We came down for the weekend. We’ve done it for a few years,” Westerman said.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said youth sports events and tournaments are an important factor to build a healthy tourist season.
After the Durango Youth Lacrosse Durango Duel Tournament held in May, he said: “Every player is coming with their mom and dad and probably an extra sibling.”
Smaller events and youth sporting events also tend to bring back repeat visitors.
Llewellyn said: “Families will come for the event, but then they’ll experience everything we have to offer, and they’ll say, ‘Wow, we’ve got to come back later this summer,’ and they go back home and they’ll tell their friends, ‘We had a great time in Durango, you ought to check it out.’”
Travis and Taylor Leeman were in town from Tampa, Florida, supporting their cousin, Greyson Sizelove, of Grand Junction, who was competing in the BMX races.
The Leemans are one week into a monthlong visit to Colorado, with a focus on riding their dirt bikes on various mountain tracks around the state.
“We’ve been to Ouray and Silverton. We made it a one-month trip,” Travis Leeman said. “It’s the best place to be, the best riding, the best people, the best scenery. If you’re going to do a monthlong trip, do the best.”