Bed racing on Central City’s Main Street

47th Annual Madam Lou Bunch Day

By Jaclyn Schrock

With festivities returning to our Central City, we all cheer the arrival of Madam Lou Bunch Day. Thank you to all the volunteers and dedicated workers who made the 2021 Madam Lou Bunch Day such a success!  Central City has had many lives and historical events remembered and forgotten. Summer brings on the celebration of the last Madam to serve the City of Central. She and her girls cared for the sick miners as yet another wave of illness struck the mining community, so celebrated on Madam Lou Bunch Day.

Saturday, August 14th at noon, Central City Mayor Fey announced the opening of the 47th Annual Madam Lou Bunch Day. He introduced the day’s events and MC Chris Bauer from the stage set at the top of Gregory and Main Streets, between Dostal Alley and the Century Casino.

Main Street was closed for the afternoon from Eureka Street to Pine Street, for the vendors, entertainers, mingling crowd, many in Victorian wear, and the famous bed races.

The first entertainment set included a half hour Jimmy Lewis fiddling two steppin’ old time favorites with the full band, a quick comical song from a local miner, Eric Chinn, and a half hour of eye-popping dancing by the Infamous Backroom Cabaret Performances with tap dancing Rocky Mountain Rhythms.

All bed racing teams were called to the Elk’s Lodge for rules and safe keeping for all.

The second entertainment repeated the entertainers with different tunes, Jimmy Lewis, Eric Chinn transitioned to the 2nd set with the Infamous Backroom Cabaret Performance.

All bed racing teams and parade participants were called to organize in front of the Teller House.

The Belvidere Players performed a melodrama of local events, supported by some Cabaret characters.

The Famous Brass Bed races began! Each team had two “Johns” and one sporting house girl. The girl must ride on the bed down the hill with one guy, and once around the barrel at the bottom of the hill they get off. Judges carefully watch while the downhill pusher wearing the red side of the bath robe removes the robe, turning it inside out so the black side shows for the uphill pusher to wear and ties it in back. Then the girl and downhill pusher sit on the bed for the race up the hill. Ten teams raced in this order and provided thrills and chills with lots of encouragement from the onlookers as the wobbly wheels on the beds caused all kinds of unexpected turns on the race course.

Winners of 2021 Bed Racers

1st Place – Dostal Alley time 1.03. This team is the 3rd generation to run in the family, and each team has won first place.

2nd Place – Madam Violet of the Lee Mansion time 1.20

3rd Place – Easy Street Casino 1.21

Best Costume – Chimney Sweeps

Worst in Bed (slowest) – Central Presents

Oldest in Bed – Ameristar 132

Winners of the Madam and Miners Ball

1st Madam – Jeannie L

2nd Madam – Jill S

3rd Madam – Jennifer B

Best Sporting House Girl

1st Sporting Girl – Tina S

2nd Sporting Girl – Sierra R

3rd Sporting Girl – Khristine K

Best Dandy Dan 

1st Dandy – Caleb l

2nd Dandy – Shawn B

3rd Dandy – Jeremy K

During the significant growth of the male population with hard rock mining in Gilpin County after Colorado became a state, there were very few women coming to the state, so there was a popular part of Central City known by the locals as the Red Light District. Children were not to go near the end of Pine Street, past the St. Mary’s Church, below St. James Methodist Church which was up the hill. A newspaper writer stated that the madam should relocate her business to a less conspicuous location. Madam Wright was operating a “crib” in the district.

In 1880, the Census reported this residence as having four women “housekeepers.”

In the 1900 Census, the same address reported a widow running a boarding house, with two women boarding.

The 1910 Census showed the two girls “boarding” with Lou Bunch from the 1900 Census, now listed as prostitutes.

Lou Bunch was the last operating madam in Central City. She was highly regarded by the miners when yet another epidemic hit the miners, and with great struggles of illness, she welcomed customers to stay and find care and healing.

The festivities drew eager crowds to enjoy the amazing music, talented dancers, and all out bed racers.

We hope to celebrate more of our mining camp traditions through the rest of summer and on into our next year. See you in Central!

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