Fruitcake has been around for centuries, but nowadays it’s often the butt of many jokes. Some of us still love fruitcake even though we may find it difficult to find in the supermarket. Others would rather toss it instead of eat it, like the Colorado folks who gather for the Great Fruitcake Toss festival in Manitou Springs, Colorado. This Colorado mountain town will host this year’s 18th annual event on Saturday, January 12, 2013.
“We encourage the use of recycled fruitcakes,” says Floyd O’Neil of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce. I was pleased to learn that the chamber re-assembles and wraps broken pieces of old fruitcake together in cellophane and freezes them for use the next year. Then the chamber rents these recycled fruitcakes for $2 each. Or participants may bring their own fruitcake, which he prefers.
“Some of the fruitcakes may be as old as the contest,” laughs O’Neil. He emphasized that this is a sporting competition and not a “hate fruitcake” event. He emphasizes that he knows of no other place sponsoring a fruitcake toss. The entry fee is one can of a non-perishable food or a cash donation for charity. There’s no charge for watching the fun-filled events, however.
The all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record is 1,420 feet, set in January 2007 by a group of eight Boeing engineers who built the “Omega 380,” a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike.
Separate prizes will be given to numerous special tossing divisions in fairness to all tossers. This means those choosing to toss their fruitcakes by hand are not competing directly with those who use a catapult, a giant slingshot or other homemade devices. O’Neil warns that onlookers need to watch for those frozen fruitcakes that are tossed straight up in the air by contestants whose timing may be off on the takeoff.
I’m one of those who love fruitcake, even those I know it has become ridiculed as both a dessert and Christmas gift. Johnny Carson once joked on the Tonight Show that fruitcake makes the worst gift. Could this be because of fruitcake’s history of long and durable life?
Roman soldiers carried fruitcake with them during their long treks. Crusaders also brought the hearty treat along on their search for the Holy Grail. Egyptians packed the fruit-and-nut bread in the coffins of friends and relatives because they apparently felt it was the only food that could survive the journey into the afterlife.
There are several theories about fruitcake’s ties to the holiday season. Some historians say it’s because the bread originated in the Holy Land. Others say English citizens passed out slices of the cake to poor women singing Christmas carols on the streets of England in the late 1700s.
If You Go
Like it or hate it? Whatever your views on fruitcake, this is an event that is fun for all and helps banish the January blahs. For more information Contact Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, 800-642-2567 or (719) 685-5089 or visit www.manitousprings.org.
To drive, Take 1-25 south from Denver and exit west on US 24 near Colorado Springs. Go west into Manitou Springs on Manitou Avenue. The event is held in Manitou Springs Memorial Park, located in the 500 block of Manitou Avenue (on your right as you drive west).
Margaret Malsam. a Colorado freelancer, has authored two books and written for numerous national magazines and newspapers, including FAMILY FUN, COUNTRY WOMAN, ELKS MAGAZINE, MIDWEST MOTORIST, TOURING AMERICA, MIAMI HERALD, BOSTON GLOBE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE and others.