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Rodeo Rooters

Pull Up a Bale and Chow Down

In the 1950s to 1980s, most downtown businesses let employees dress in Western wear for the street breakfast and rodeo.

In the 1950s to 1980s, most downtown businesses let employees dress in Western wear for the street breakfast and rodeo.

 When Joe Reich Sr. served breakfast to a bunch of friends from a chuckwagon at his Swiss Chalet restaurant back in 1936, he had no idea he was starting a tradition that would live into the 21st Century.

It was such a good idea to gather rodeo supporters in advance of the annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo that, after World War II, the Cowhands & Cowbelles (forerunners of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Association) opened it to the public. Hundreds of folks converged on downtown Colorado Springs, sitting on park benches, curbs and the running boards of their cars with a plate full of pancakes to watch the sun rise.

The annual Colorado Springs Street Breakfast eventually grew into one of the city’s top summer events, drawing 10,000 people to chow down on pancakes, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee rustled up by a cadre of cooks from Fort Carson.

All the city’s top businessmen got into the act. Most local businesses let their employees wear Western boots, hats and clothes for the day. By the late 1970s, it was thought to be the largest street breakfast anywhere in the United States.

This year, the event happens from 5:30 to 9 a.m. on June 18. The event, still intended to promote the annual rodeo and support local military charities, is also the kick-off for the annual Range Riders horseback trek around Pikes Peak (also to promote the rodeo). Each year, a goodly number of the Range Riders’ 150-160 members saddle up for a five-day camp-out.

Ron Brown, the current Range Riders president, will take his 36th ride
this year.

In the old days, he says, folks gathered downtown from all parts of the city to celebrate the spirit of the West.

“I think the city has gotten so large that a lot of people never come downtown anymore,” Brown says. But it’s such a fun event, with such a great tradition, he’d like to see newcomers embrace it.

This year, to attract new participants, the newly renamed Colorado Springs Western Street Breakfast will have a country-western band, Wild West gunslingers doing mock gunfights, a trick roper circulating among the crowd, plus face-painting and games for the kids.

Cost is $5 per person (all ages) and parking is free at city meters until 8 a.m.

For more on this event, visit www.visitcos.com/pikes-peak-or-bust-rodeo.