Bringing frog racing to Empire required a real leap of faith. After all, the tiny mountain town is far from any lily ponds. Still, two decades ago, a farsighted mayor decided that a Frog Rodeo would be just the thing to put Empire on the map, and he hopped right on the idea. Today the 400-person town celebrates the 22nd edition of the event. The festivities begin at 11 a.m. and include parades, dunk tanks, water-balloon launchings and the signature event -- the frog rodeo itself. Some 200 tree frogs have been flown in for this legendary competition, and youngsters who pay a $2 entry fee per amphib (and bring suitable squirt guns) will attempt to urge their frogs across a small racecourse with judiciously applied water jets. Although prizes vary, all competitors get to keep their young racers. (Of course, the average life span of the frogs is about six months, so this year's rodeo is really their chance for immortality -- or whatever it is that champion rodeo frogs claim.)
"It's just a lot of fun," current mayor Lori Short says of the day. And she must mean it, since she'll spend some of that time in the dunk tank. For more information, call 303-569-2978. -- Ernie Tucker
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Martial-arts exhibition packs a punch
Marc "Animal" MacYoung is convinced that martial-arts traditions were traded over campfires along the fabled Silk Road. It was there, he says, on the trade route between China and Europe, that bodyguards swapped lore. So it's not surprising that MacYoung looks at today's free martial-arts exhibition in Castle Rock as a modern-day version of the same. MacYoung, who teaches self-defense (and retains the streetfighter nickname he says was earned in Los Angeles), will host the event with presenters from around the globe, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Castle Rock Recreation Center, 2301 North Woodlands Boulevard. Everyone's invited to learn the secrets of the Orient; call 303-814-0935 for details. -- Ernie Tucker
On the burro-racing circuit -- a rarefied social stratum to begin with -- Fairplay's annual World Championship Pack-Burro Race, a grueling 29-mile course over the 13,185-foot Mosquito Pass summit, is the granddaddy of them all. Particularly if Granddaddy was a grizzled old prospector. It's the longest Colorado burro race -- seven miles farther than next week's Leadville event over a similar high-altitude course -- and the best one to win, though the hardest part can often be getting your donkey over the finish line. So every year (this is the 54th), as intrepid teams of man (or woman) and beast recall the days when miners and their jackass valets traversed Colorado peaks loaded down with picks, shovels and cooking pots, Fairplay throws a party to match. This year's Fairplay Burro Days, starting today on the mountain town's main drag, will feature mock gunfights, a parade, a community dance, llama races and other activities leading up to tomorrow's main event, a folkloric race as headstrong as its namesake. For more information, call 1-719-836-2233 or log on to www.fourteenernet.com/southpark. -- Susan Froyd