Manitou goes Polynesian in latest bid to draw crowds

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The city that created such events as the Emma Crawford coffin races, a Mardi Gras parade and the Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cookoff has come up with another event to entice locals and tourists — its very own luau.

The idea for “The ManitouAu” was born last year, out of the Manitou Chamber of Commerce’s affection for the islands, said Floyd O’Neil, special events coordinator for the chamber.

Several board members visit the Hawaiian Islands frequently and decided to bring the party home — leis, grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts and all.

“It’s quirky enough to attract interest,” O’Neil said. “I mean who does a luau in Colorado?”

The city’s annual Colorado Wine Festival attracts plenty of statewide interest, especially from those living in Boulder and Denver, and organizers expect the luau will as well.

“People do a ‘staycation’ (for events in Manitou),” O’Neil said. “They come in on Friday, take in the event on Saturday. They don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and they go home on Sunday.”

The plan includes starting at 3 a.m., when two 250-pound pigs will be placed to roast in a pit lined with river rock and wood chips. The pigs will yield 700-plus portions.

Forty volunteers will be on-hand to make sure things run smoothly.

Luau-style entertainment is planned, too.

A Polynesian review group “Na Kamali’i O’Hawai’l,” which translates to “children of Hawaii,” will perform island music, hula demonstrations, audience participation and a fire dance.

As for beverages, there will be bottled water, tropical fruit drinks and beer from the award-winning Kona Brewery.

“It’s an authentic brewery established 14 years ago on the island of Hawaii,” O’Neil said.

He knows the place first-hand.

“When I get off the plane, my first stop is The Kona Brewery. They have a long-board lager that is to kill for,” he said.

Seven Falls renovation

Seven Falls and South Cheyenne Canyon — one of the largest local tourist attractions — draws almost 250,000 visitors annually and is now getting some upgrades to handle the load.

Situated in a box canyon, the area can hold just 100 cars at a time.

Many visitors choose to ride a shuttle from the Starsmore Discovery Center, but hundreds of people drive to the falls. A 224-step stairway leads to the top of the 181-foot falls.

On a busy day during the peak season — mid-June through Labor Day weekend, 300 to 550 vehicles come through the sole gatehouse to the canyon.

Multiple renovation projects are under way to ease traffic.

A second gatehouse is being constructed that will cut wait time in half, said Linda Carter, Seven Falls’ director of tourism.

Additionally, the entrance gate is being moved further out of the canyon.

Because of the long narrow road leading to the canyon, oftentimes visitors drove a quarter mile to reach the entrance gate, only to discover it was closed. Moving the gate down the mountain will prevent that.

All the handrails are being repainted, parking lots are being striped and 5,000 annual flowering plants are going in the ground or hanging baskets — including geraniums, marigolds, day lilies, pansies and Colorado Columbine.

Renovation is expected to be complete in time for a May 28 re-opening.

Lovin’ it in Loveland

The Loveland Ski Area is one of only three resorts still open for skiing this season. The resort hopes to lure late-season skiers by offering a $30 adult full-day lift ticket to season pass-holders from other resorts.

Only other resorts in Colorado? Not quite.

“Any season pass in the world. If you have one from Japan, bring that to the window (and) we’ll hook you up,” said Dustin Schaefer, group sales coordinator for the resort.

The resort has plenty of powder — a 55-inch base.

Ninety-one percent of its slopes, 1,527 acres, are open.

“We always have a good snowpack up here, because we’re so high,” Schaefer said.

The resort, which is about 120 miles  northwest of the Springs, closes on Sunday, May 2.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at or 719-329-5229.