Almost exactly one year ago I interviewed Brad Wann of the Western Pack Burro ASS-ociation (WPBA) to learn how the pack burro community was adapting to the pandemic, pivoting to virtual races and finding creative ways to keep the sport alive. Now, I’m catching up with Wann to see how this historic Colorado heritage sport is fairing heading into the 2021 summer racing season. From our conversation I learned how this sport of trail running with burros has changed since the start of the pandemic, what to expect in 2021, and much more.
[TAYTE POLLMANN] Last year you were able to put together the Burro Brave Virtual Race Series to keep the pack burro community connected during the pandemic. How have things changed since last year? Do you still plan to go “virtual” or how do you envision events taking place this year?
[BRAD WANN] Colorado is more “open for business” than it was last year at this time. Race directors of Pack Burro races in Colorado are excited to put on great in-person races again. That said, how races will be executed from town to town will look different. For example, the Triple Crown Burro race in Leadville has recently announced that normal festivities surrounding the race will be cancelled, but the race will still be held with no spectators. Burro racing teams have not stopped training and it should be a competitive summer racing season.
[TAYTE] How has the pandemic shifted your current plans for the Western Pack Burro ASS-ociation? What positives can you take going forward into 2021 from 2020?
[BRAD] We’re excited to have WPBA races up and running again in 2021. The struggles to keep the sport together during the pandemic last year were worth it to make this 2021 season even more special. We wanted to maintain history by keeping our sport alive and ensuring everyone’s safety. Even if there are only two teams on the starting line, the show must go on!
[TAYTE] Could you give us the current plan for 2021 WPBA events? Which events are fully confirmed?
[BRAD] All races in the traditional WPBA race schedule are set to be held in 2021. See our race calendar on the Western Pack Burro ASS-ociation website.
[TAYTE] Let’s shift gears and talk about the future of the pack burro racing. What are your current efforts to expand the sport?
[BRAD] The sport has already grown beyond my wildest dreams. When I became involved with the WPBA in 2009 there were less than fifteen teams (a team consists of a burro and runner) at a start line for most events. The WBPA is currently attempting to expand and we have recently sanctioned races in other states besides Colorado. Races have now been sanctioned in Alardt, Tennessee, Inyokern, California and Tombstone, Arizona. We expect the World Championship in Fairplay, Colorado could have well over 100 teams, breaking the previous record set in 2019 of 92 teams.
We also recognize that it’s important for the sport to grow slowly and sustainably. The safety of the animals is our top priority and we need to ensure new burro owners/racers are properly educated about the sport. This is not a sport most people are familiar with (it’s not something you can participate in during high school or earn a college scholarship for!). The human-animal connection between burro and runner is like nothing else. Once you participate in this crazy sport, it’s hard to get it out of your head!
[TAYTE] Where are the strongest burro racing communities located?
[BRAD] Douglas Country, Colorado is arguably the strongest community for Pack Burro Racing. Fifty teams may show up for average training runs.
[TAYTE] Where is the sport currently growing and what geographic areas have potential to build burro racing communities?
[BRAD] Arizona is a current hot sport for the sport. The state will have three races in 2021, with two of these are sanctioned by the WPBA:
- March 18, 2021 – Donkey Durby Black – Canyon City, AZ
- April 17, 2021 – Schieffelin Days – Tombstone, AZ (WPBA)
- October 23, 2021 – Superior Arizona Burro Run – (WPBA)
[TAYTE] How would you suggest someone interested in burro racing get involved in the sport?
[BRAD] My wife Amber Wann is an experienced “burro matchmaker.” She can connect you with burro renters and provide information on training run opportunities. You can contact her at her email address firstname.lastname@example.org or to me at email@example.com.