Crazy but true: A little more than 100 years ago, a Central City brothel owner saved the town by opening her beds to sick miners in the midst of a tuberculosis epidemic.
Today, Central City celebrates its most famous brothel owner with a day in her honor — Madam Lou Bunch Day, held in June for the last 44 years.
And what better way to celebrate Madam Lou’s lasting impact on the town and its economy than by racing brass beds down the street?!
On Saturday, June 16, residents and visitors alike will line Central City’s streets to watch three-person teams (comprised of two men and one woman) race wheeled beds down Main Street — in full costume. Cash prizes are awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, as well as for the best period costume (you have to dress the part, ya know!). The race begins at noon, and everything is family-friendly.
Other festivities of the day include live music and entertainment, a good supply of beer, street vendors, and the Madam’s and Miner’s Ball, where you can compete for the coveted titles of Madam of the Year, Sporting Girl of the Year, or Dandy Dan of the Year. (Sure, it’s a little politically incorrect, but how fun!!!). A good sense of humor is encouraged for this event. 🙂
Even though prostitution was illegal in Central City in the late 1800s and early 1900s, authorities turned a blind eye to Madam Lou Bunch’s several brothels, which she ran on Pine Street to keep the miners “entertained.”
The gold mining industry in Central City and Blackhawk was the bread and butter of Colorado’s economy at the time, so nobody wanted to upset the good thing they had going. But when a tuberculosis epidemic threatened to ruin the town, the madam temporarily closed her brothels and opened them up to the ill miners and other townspeople as make-shift hospitals. As a result, Central City gradually regained its health, and Madam Lou’s generosity was credited with saving the town.
She finally closed her last brothel for good in 1914.
It’s a little too late to register a team for the bed race, but you should certainly plan to go watch! And there’s definitely time to get your costume together for the costume contest ($100 to the winner!).
For more information, check out Central City’s website.
So have you participated in this crazy Central City tradition before? What do you think about it? Do you plan to head up the hill to see it for yourself? Tell us in the comments below!