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The Emma Crawford Coffin Races & Festival in Downtown Manitou Springs 2023


Every year, the quaint town of Manitou Springs, nestled at the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado, comes alive with a unique and lighthearted event that combines history, creativity, and a touch of the macabre. The Emma Crawford Coffin Races & Festival is a local tradition that captures the spirit of this charming community and draws visitors from all over to partake in the fun. Today, I had the privilege of capturing the essence of this lively event through my lens, and I'm excited to share the vibrant scenes and rich history with you.

The Legend of Emma Crawford

The event's namesake, Emma Crawford, was a young woman who moved to Manitou Springs in the late 1800s in hopes of finding a cure for her tuberculosis in the town's clean mountain air. Tragically, Emma passed away, and her dying wish was to be buried at the top of nearby Red Mountain. Her fiancé, William Hildebrand, along with a group of friends, honored this wish by carrying her coffin to the summit.

Over time, Emma's wooden coffin began to deteriorate, and in 1929, it slid down the mountainside during a rainstorm, revealing her remains. Emma Crawford's tale quickly became a local legend, and the coffin races were conceived in her honor.

Coffin Races: A Unique Tradition

The Emma Crawford Coffin Races is a zany, high-spirited competition that involves teams crafting their own elaborately decorated coffins and racing them through the streets of Manitou Springs. The event showcases the town's quirky personality and deep sense of community, with teams of all ages and backgrounds participating.

Each team consists of a "pallbearer" crew and an "Emma" who rides inside the coffin. The creativity and enthusiasm displayed in the coffin designs are truly a sight to behold. From whimsical and spooky to historical and humorous, the coffins pay tribute to both Emma's legacy and the town's colorful history.

The Festival Atmosphere

The festival accompanying the coffin races is a joyous celebration of life, death, and everything in between. Manitou Avenue is transformed into a lively street fair, with food stalls, live music, and vendors selling crafts and curiosities. Many attendees don costumes, and the atmosphere is nothing short of festive.


The Emma Crawford Coffin Races & Festival is a remarkable testament to the enduring spirit of Manitou Springs. It brings together history, creativity, and a close-knit community, resulting in a day of lively festivities and memorable moments. As a photographer, I'm grateful to have been a part of this unique event, and I hope that through my photos, you can experience a taste of the joy, camaraderie, and quirky charm that define this beloved Colorado tradition. If you ever find yourself in Manitou Springs in late October, make sure to join in the festivities and create your own unforgettable memories at the Emma Crawford Coffin Races & Festival.

Bobak Radbin Photography

Instagram: @bobakradbin


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