The Surprising History Behind Colorado's Great Fruitcake Toss

What happens to all of those unwanted fruitcakes once Christmas is over? According to rumor, many of them are put away in a closet, only to be wrapped and re-gifted again the next year. Other fruitcakes, strange as it may seem, actually get eaten -– according to a poll Mashed conducted last year, a shocking 4.88% percent of respondents actually chose fruitcake as a favorite holiday treat, so it's not as universally despised as it's often made out to be. That being said, we still have a sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of fruitcakes simply get tossed in the garbage.

In Manitou Springs, Colorado, they're much more creative with their fruitcake tossing. Rather, they re-purpose this colorful Yuletide brick into something that's used in a holiday-themed sporting event akin to punkin' chunkin or turkey bowling. Westword has selected the Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss as one of Colorado's top annual events, while WebUrbanist ranks it among the world's best food fights.

The Fruitcake Toss started small

Like many other food-hurling events (Indiana's Flaming Turkey Toss comes to mind), the Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss just started with a couple of people goofing around. According to the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, the event began in 1996 when a few locals got together in the park to fling around their unwanted fruitcakes. This good clean post-holiday fun soon developed a competitive edge, though, and they decided to make an annual tradition of it. The competition drew crowds, which in turn begat more competition, and, well, things just got crazier from there.

Manitou Springs is just outside Colorado Springs and not far from NORAD of Santa tracker fame. Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Boeing Tech Center, so it's full of super-smart science types. Not surprisingly, the fruitcake tossing soon became high-tech by including mechanical and robotic events. As Gastro Obscura reports, engineers from Boeing built an artillery-type launcher in 2007 that managed to hurl a fruitcake 1,420 feet, presumably winning their division that year.

How to get in on the fruitcake-flinging fun

Now in its 27th year, the Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss is one of the city's top tourist attractions. In order to participate, there is a (very) small admission fee -– just $1 or a can of food for the Manitou Springs Food Pantry. You can bring your own fruitcake if you like, but should you be so fortunate (or unfortunate) as to find yourself fruitcake-free this year, you can also purchase one at the event. At the 2021 event, which took place January 23, fruitcake was $5, according to Pike's Peak Region Attractions. The fee includes 5 entry tickets for the different competitions: throwing for speed, throwing for distance, throwing for accuracy and for balance, and even throwing by slingshot ... Who knew there were so many ways to toss a fruitcake, not one of them involving a trash can?

Speaking of trash, none of the fruitcake used in the competition goes to waste. The Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce assures us that the leftovers are sent to the SunMountain Center, which, according to their Airbnb page, is a "wellness sanctuary featuring a serene natural environment." There, these no-longer unwanted fruitcakes are fed to pigs who are no doubt appreciative of their post-holiday bounty.