(The Denver Post)

For many families across the country going to watch "The Nutcracker" at Christmastime is a time-honored tradition. There is the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Mouse King. But in the Colorado Ballet's rendition of this magical tale last Sunday, there were also two Colorado governors.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Gov. Bill Owens joined the performance of the Nutcracker at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for the second year in a row. The political duo artfully carried the Arabian Princess on and off the stage and watched as she danced with the Arabian Prince. The barefooted governors dressed as Arabian sherpas drew applause and a few laughs from the surprised crowd.

"It's a good opportunity to give something back to the community and do something fun with one of my best friends," said Owens with a smile.

For Hickenlooper, who was practicing his bow backstage, his participation in the performance has started a new tradition, he said. The next Colorado governor may be asked to join the duo.

"It will have to be a three person litter," Hickenlooper said. "It is becoming a tradition for us. This is our second year. I assume we are going to have many more to come."

The Colorado Ballet has performed "The Nutcracker" for the past 51 years, according to artistic director Gil Boggs. Year after year they have kept the production fresh by adding artistic elements and new dancers. About 40 children from Denver participate in the 26 performances throughout the holiday season. This year the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" features a choir.

But one of the main reasons people keep coming back to enjoy the enchanting story about Clara and her Nutcracker Prince is the music, Boggs said.

"[Ilyich] Tchaikovsky's score is very popular and when you hear it with the live orchestra it's magnificent," he said.

The show runs until Dec. 24. For more information visit ColoradoBallet.org.