Pikes Peak Fireworks and the AdAmAn Club
You may have noticed a lot more buzz than usual about the famous Pikes Peak fireworks launched each year on New Year’s Eve. That’s because 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the AdAmAn Club, the originators of this epic Colorado Springs tradition. Read on to learn more about the “Frozen Five,” the AdAmAn Club and what you can expect to see on New Year’s Eve.
December 1922: A Pikes Peak Tradition is Born
Plenty of people had summitted Pikes Peak by the time the winter of 1922 had rolled around, but very few ever embraced the folly of attempting the ascent during the snowy season. Rightfully so, considering that early residents weren’t exactly trained or outfitted for mountaineering. Even today we don’t advise that anyone hike Pikes Peak in the winter because it is simply too dangerous and unpredictable. Enter the “Frozen Five,” a group with no qualms about tackling the monster mountain, come hell or high snowdrifts.
A Tale of Two Origins
Like any great legend, the tale of the ascent that became a tradition is a messy mixture of half-truths, proven facts and a healthy dose of darn good storytelling. The most favored narration is that local mountaineers and future trespassers Fred Morath, Fred Barr, Willis Magee, Ed Morath and Harry Standley decided to make one of their favorite climbs in the dead of winter on Dec. 31, 1922. The brothers (yes, Ed and Fred) had made the hike many times before. It was, however, the first time they picked up flares, broke into the Summit House and subsequently started a bonfire on the peak. Thus, from crime, a tradition was born. Or was it? It is a delightfully sassy story that certainly fits our Pikes Peak or bust community narrative. As far as accuracy goes, this beloved version is mostly a tall tale with regard to 1922. For those horribly disappointed in the lack of scandal, you can take comfort and knowing that the B&E and arson likely did occur at some point, just not the date in question.
Local historians have since traced the story to a slightly less vandalous origin. Per the official AdAmAn website, the group of five did get permission on that particular eve, hauling a fair bit of sparkly, explosive fun for all with them to the top. The maniacs—er, men—trekked their way to the summit in sub-zero temperatures and a blizzard, following the Cog Railway tracks. At 9 p.m. that evening, the gentlemen fired off a celebratory green “we’re not dead yet” rocket to let Colorado Springs residents know they would be spared the chore of chipping a literal frozen five out of the ice on New Year’s Day. At midnight, they lit off the rest of their stash during and after yet another blizzard, creating a new tradition that ensures to this day.
2022: 100 Years of AdAmAn Excellence
When the Frozen Five completed the journey, they returned to a delighted community and much celebration. They decided to make it an official annual event with a club to support it — the AdAmAn Club. The premise behind the name was that each year the club would add just one new member. The fun capitalization of each A was designed to give the impression of mountains. Today the group is made up of 30 members who make the trek together with a select group of specially invited guests. And yes, they still add a new member each year.
If you happen to be in downtown Colorado Springs this winter, you’ll get a glimpse of just how enduring the legend of the club has become. A new art installation has been strung across the alley beside the Hibbard Building on Tejon St. just south of Pikes Peak Ave. It features a silhouette of five climbers and is positioned against the backdrop of the very real Pikes Peak. It’s a small tradition that is a big deal.
How to Watch the Fireworks on Pikes Peak
You can begin your plan to watch the fireworks with a fervent prayer to the clouds to stay clear on New Year’s Eve. From there it’s as simple as finding an uninterrupted view of Pikes Peak. Obviously, the fireworks are more impressive the closer you are, but they can be seen far out in the eastern plains if the weather is clear. Some people like to park near Garden of the Gods or along some of the higher backroads for a view that is uninterrupted by city lights. Others may journey to places like Cripple Creek to catch a whole new view of the spectacle. If you have binoculars, you can catch great glimpses that make you feel close to the action.
Be sure to cast your eyes to the peak at 9 p.m., too. In honor of the original AdAmAn Club “we’re still kickin’” flare launched on the inaugural journey, modern-day AdAfolks still fire off a few fireworks at the same hour to let everyone know that all is well.
We hope that you have found the history of this uniquely Colorado tradition as fascinating as we did. When you catch the fireworks dancing on Pikes Peak this year, you will be a part of a century of dedication and only plain awesomeness. In closing, we would like to wish everyone an incredibly happy New Year. We hope it is filled with love and peace and in prosperity in all the ways that matter.