By Phil Lindeman
After living in Eagle long enough, natives and longtime residents likely have a story or two about Eagle Flight Days, the town’s annual celebration of all things local and funky.
Marilene Miller, the town clerk and treasurer, took her children every year before they grew up and moved away. She now spends her Summer Solstice – which always coincides with the celebration – organizing dozens of vendors. Sheryl Staten, the Eagle Area Recreation Manager for WECMRD, watches for the annual return of friends who moved away over the years. This weekend, her mom will be back in town.
“It’s an awesome small-town event,” Staten says. “One of the cool things you get is all the people you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a place to reconnect and just a lot of fun.”
Eagle Flight Days kicks off this Friday at Eagle Town Park and runs through Sunday afternoon, with the majority of activities taking place Saturday within walking distance of the park and town hall. The full roster of events reads like an off-the-wall state fair, including free concerts by local and Denver bands, community karaoke, a pet show, pancake breakfast, something called “blooperball,” a vintage Girl Scout fashion show, and dozens of food and craft vendors.
Despite such an enormous range of activities, event committee co-chair and former Eagle mayor Roxie Deane says most of the events have been part of the Eagle Flight Days lineup for decades, including opening-night favorites like the pet show and baby show. Her favorite recent memory: open karaoke, when more adults than kids lined up to belt out ‘80s pop tunes.
“People really know what to expect,” Dean says. “It’s a local celebration – I call it ‘a gift to the people of Eagle.’ It’s not a tourist attraction, and we never try and make it that. This is something for the community.”
After more than 50 years, Eagle Flight Days has entertained nearly three generations of down-valley residents. During that time, it has kept a down-home feel and audience, even as similar events like Gypsum Daze and the Eagle County Rodeo in July attract more out-of-town attention.
It’s not that Eagle Flight Days is a half-hearted affair; like community gatherings of old, the celebration features nearly a dozen public performances. The one-two punch of the pet and baby show starts the weekend at 5 p.m. on Friday at Centennial Stage in the park. The tradition is more than 20 years old and features town newborns and prized pets, all in a friendly pageant-like format. The evening caps off with more than four hours of free concerts beginning at 6 p.m. with SomeTown, a local country/rock band, and the nationally known horn-and-guitar act Chris Daniels and The Kings from Denver.
After the enormous pancake breakfast by the Eagle Lions Club from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., the celebration gets into full swing with a community-wide parade along Broadway. Entries from Eagle Valley High School clubs, local summer camps, the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls roller derby team and more take to the streets, attracting thousands of spectators.
Following the parade at 11 a.m. is a demonstration by the Lawn Chair Brigade, a must-see routine that crosses color guard-like theatrics with webbed, multi-colored folding chairs. At 11:30 a.m. is the Girl Scout uniform vintage fashion show, sponsored by local Girl Scout units with members decked out in iconic beige and green uniforms, some dating back to when Eagle Flight Days was founded.
The rest of the day is filled with music and dancing, including a performance by the Eagle Valley High School Dance Team. The evening culminates in another four hours of live music at the park, lead by local bluegrass and jazz act New Shoes at 6 p.m., followed by returning Denver cover band and summer-concert specialists Hot Posse at 8:30 p.m.
Let’s play Blooperball
In keeping with Eagle’s reputation as an outdoor Mecca, Eagle Flight Days is packed with sports, but none of the biking or trail races that epitomize more recent events. Instead, organizers opted for team events like the manic “Blooperball Tournament” on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Bull Pasture Park.
As described by recreation manager Staten, blooperball is like softball played with a 14-inch padded ball, aluminum bats and no gloves. The game is so rare, it took several hours on the Internet to find equipment, and invites the kind of costumed insanity typical of a fun, non-competitive environment.
“In years past, we’ll get teams dressed in these ridiculous, funny outfits,” Staten says. “People really have a blast – the longtime locals love to come out and play.”
Registration is $5 per team and is open to co-ed players over 14 years old. Last year’s tournament had four teams, and Staten suggests signing up beforehand by calling the Eagle Pool at 970-328-5277, although teams can register on the spot before 1 p.m.
Sunday is the busiest day for athletics, beginning with 5K and 10K races at 7 a.m., an outdoor yoga session in the park at 9 a.m., and grass volleyball tournament at 9 a.m. with adult and youth divisions. For registration info on all three, call the town at 970-328-6354.