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Snowdown asks Durango residents to do the absurd: Dress to the nines

David Imming croons for the audience Tuesday during the 2018 Snowndown Follies Media Night at the Durango Arts Center.

In our fashion-challenged community, some residents might find themselves tasked with the impossible as they gear up for Snowdown’s 40th anniversary celebration – “A Black Tie Affair.” Events will start at noon Wednesday with the Fashion Do’s and Don’ts at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

Here are five things to know before we get this party started:

How was the theme, ‘A Black Tie Affair,’ chosen and why?

A contest is held each year to determine the theme two years out. But for the first time in the event’s 40-year history, the Snowdown board of directors picked a theme and later changed it. Snowdown spokeswoman Julie Oskard said the board organized an impromptu meeting after receiving a “lukewarm response” to the original theme, where they decided on “A Black Tie Affair” to better encapsulate the celebration. “A waitress at Carver Brewing Co. recommended ‘A Black Tie Affair’ to acknowledge the anniversary in a classier kind of way,” Oskard said. “It was presented at the board meeting, and that’s how it came to be.” Ideas for Snowdown 2020 can be submitted at Magpies Newsstand, 707 Main Ave.; mailed to Snowdown, PO Box 1, Durango, CO 81301; or emailed to info@snowdown.org. Next year’s theme is “A Comic-Con Snowdown.”

Who is Terry Fiedler and why is he mentioned a lot this year?

Fiedler, aka “Mr. Snowdown,” is known for his longtime involvement in the event. He was the first coordinator hired to organize Snowdown in 1979, and also established and produced the wildly popular Snowdown Follies for many years. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Fiedler moved to Philadelphia to be closer to family. To help raise money for his medical bills, historic Snowdown memorabilia will be auctioned at the Durango Welcome Center, 802 Main Ave., during Snowdown.

How has Snowdown evolved over the years?

Over the last 40 years, Snowdown has grown in size to incorporate more than 100 events. Its mission is to “promote fun first and foremost,” meaning things can get a little rowdy, Oskard said. “From my experience since the ’90s, it has always been pretty crazy,” she said. “That continues, and you see some crazy things from people from all walks of life.” Still, the event aims to be all-inclusive, welcoming people of all ages, Oskard said.

How has the dearth in snowfall affected Snowdown?

Longtime Snowdown participants might remember skijoring, snow-sculpting competitions and other events reliant on snow. “I remember amazing snow sculptures in the ’90s, and gelande jumping was an original Snowdown event,” Oskard said. “We are always hoping for snow, but it’s not something we can control.” However, an exceptionally warm and dry winter does not mean there is a lack of events. Snowdown coordinators have to plan for years without snow, and participants have 153 events to look forward to these next five days.

Who is in charge of Snowdown?

This is a frequently asked question by many people who try to understand how this massive event is pulled off. But the truth is that it doesn’t receive funding from the city, and no one person oversees its activities. “One person could never pull this off,” Oskard said. “It is an amazing effort by many volunteers, but is governed by a nine-member board of directors.” There are a few paid positions, including event coordinators and an artist, but their salaries translate to roughly 10 cents an hour. “This is something that happens out of a passion for our community and the event,” Oskard said.

For a complete schedule and ongoing coverage of Snowdown, go to durangoherald.com/snowdown; follow us on Twitter at @DurangoHerald, @jerryphotog, and @mlrupan; and follow us on Instagram at durango_herald.

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