When innkeepers Giles and Kami Kolakowski decided it was time to move to a new part of the country, selling their bed-and-breakfast seemed too ordinary. 

Instead, the owners of the Ice Palace Inn (search) in Leadville, Colo., are giving it away — to the winner of an essay contest.

“Anybody can sell their house, but how many times in your life can you do something nice for somebody else?” said Giles.

Though the Kolakowskis said the bed-and-breakfast has an appraised value upwards of $600,000, they're trying to raise $575,000 — the minimum they would have accepted had they sold the house — by charging a $230 entry fee for the contest.

“We want to get enough entries so we can give it away and make someone’s dreams come true,” Kami said.

The Kolakowskis need 2,500 applications to meet their goal. So far they've gotten 2,000; the deadline is May 31.

The couple, who have run the inn for nine years, are moving to Seattle to open a new bed-and-breakfast and be near Kami’s parents.

"We want to make a move to bring our children closer to their grandparents," said Kami. "We thought, what better way to leave Colorado than to give our inn away and head off to our new spot?"

They won't be judging who wins, though; instead they’ve chosen an outside panel to narrow down the new owner from 100 finalists.

Those entering the contest have come up with imaginative ways to make their essays stand out. Some have written poems, riddles or songs. Another entry came in the form of a marriage proposal to the inn. One essay was even painted onto a quilt; another was ironed onto a pillow.

“Some are funny, some touch you, some actually make you cry,” Kami said.

One entry entitled “This Soldier’s Prayer” was written by a man going off to war in Iraq.

“Please watch over my little girl as I go off to fight the world … And let her know I’ll surely miss her should I not make it home to kiss her,” the essay read.

The marriage proposal came in scroll-form, from a former guest of the inn.

“Having been enraptured by her beauty, charm and grace, I knew at once I had found the one I had searched a lifetime for,” the essay read. “To win her, I would risk all that I am and all that I ever will be.”

It was signed “An ardent suitor.”

Another entry was written on bark. One zany essay suggested that the entrants would turn the inn, which doesn’t allow pets, into a haven for dogs.

Erin Kimmitt of Denver and her husband David sent in two entries — the quilt and a Letterman-style “Top 10 Reasons Why We Want to Own the Ice Palace Inn Bed-and-Breakfast” list (No. 3 was “We eat breakfast”).

“We want to work together,” Erin said. “We were always trying to brainstorm about what kind of business we could start up together.”

If they win, the Kimmitts plan to keep the bed-and-breakfast just as it is today.

Entrant Linda Hawkins said she and her husband want to run the inn so they can leave southern California and live in a cozier community.

“It’s the lifestyle we crave,” she said. “We would like to open our home and have the ability to meet new people every day. We’re always dreaming of being innkeepers.”

The Ice Palace Inn has a rich history. It’s named for the largest ice palace ever created, which was built in 1896 by the citizens of Leadville and stood where the bed-and-breakfast stands today. Attracting about a quarter of a million visitors, the palace boasted a grand ballroom with wooden floors, a full-size carousel, an ice rink and 90-foot towers. It melted after only three months because of an unseasonably warm winter.

The current inn is made from much of the wood used in the construction of the palace. And Kami said she wants to make the contest part of the inn’s long legacy.

“I’d like to have a lot of the essays framed and put in all the rooms,” she said. “People’s creativity has impressed us.”