Fire-breathing dragon car missing at Steamboat’s Halloween Stroll | SteamboatToday.com

Fire-breathing dragon car missing at Steamboat’s Halloween Stroll

Gail and Charlie Holthausen’s fire-breathing dragons have been fan favorites at the annual Halloween Stroll in Steamboat Springs. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wednesday's Halloween Stroll had it all — buckets of tasty candy, creative costumes and oodles of fun.

But for those who make the long-running Steamboat Springs tradition an annual event, the night was missing one of its biggest attractions.

"We are sad and feel a little bad that we let down Steamboat this year," said Charlie Holthausen, who has created two car-sized, fire-breathing dragons that have made appearances at Halloween celebrations in Steamboat for the past six years.

The dragon missed this year’s celebration after Charlie and his wife, Gail, enshrined the creation at the Bizzarre Car Garage in Trinidad, Colorado.

"We are proud that it is missed, but we are also sad that it is missed," Charlie said. "But it had to be."

The Holthausens have been turning old cars into art for more than a decade. The couple started with an iguana, which was followed by two different dragons named Spike and Phoenix.

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Spike got things started and made appearances at the Fourth of July Parade and the Halloween Stroll for several years. Charlie often let children push the button that made flames shoot out of the dragon’s mouth.

The dragons were also popular with the crowds and collectors at Burning Man, a week-long art festival in the Nevada desert that the Holthausens enjoyed attending. The couple sold Spike to a collector who saw it at Burning Man and took it to Las Vegas.

Charlie then built Phoenix — a  bigger, better dragon —  to replace Spike. But, a couple of years ago, the man who purchased the first dragon came back to Burning Man and wanted to buy Phoenix. As part of the deal, Charlie got Spike back.

"Who needs two dragons," Charlie joked. "When we got it back, it was in pretty rough shape. The owner had painted it purple and caught the head on fire. We repainted it red and rebuilt the whole dragon. It looked really good when we finished it."

But even then, Charlie realized it's hard to keep a huge dragon in a town that gets several feet of snow per year. His garage was not big enough to shelter the dragon, and he feared Spike was not going to last outside.

When Charlie got an offer to house his creation at the Bizarre Car Garage, he jumped at the opportunity.

"It was a choice between sitting in my backyard under the snow all winter or being inside a heated museum in Trinidad," Charlie said.

The museum hosts the second largest art car festival in the country and is in a museum where car art is honored.

"We miss all the kids and having everybody push the button that blows the flames," Charlie said. "But in the museum, the dragon is kind of like the highlight and the king of the museum."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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