For years, when they were little boys, Mike Jorgensen and Cory Shultz would attend the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Breakfast in downtown Colorado Springs.
They’d marvel wide-eyed at the cowboys riding horses there, while the boys sat on bales of hay and ate breakfast made by Fort Carson soldiers.
The breakfast — this year on Wednesday, June 18 — is one of the annual events that promote the rodeo, scheduled for July 9-12.
Now grown up with families of their own, Jorgensen and Shultz have become two of the “cowboys” that youngsters at the breakfast will watch in wonder.
They’re part of a club of men who take a five-day annual ride, starting at the breakfast. A typical ride involves riding horses from downtown Colorado Springs to the flanks of Pikes Peak.
Called the Range Riders, the group formed in 1949 when Ken Brookhart and Everett Conover came up with the idea to ride and promote the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.
“My grandfather was one of the co-founders,” said Ron Brown of Brookhart. “They’d been friends for a long time and they would ride in Palmer Park early in the mornings.
“One morning they thought — why not put together a ride to promote the rodeo,” said Brown, a Range Rider himself. Initially, 30 to 35 riders participated. This year, some 170 will ride out of more than 200 members.
Not for women
The event is for men only.
“That’s been kind of a sticking point,” Brown said. “It is a male-only club, although we do have other activities throughout the year with our wives.”
The ride itself involves an event to which wives and city leaders are invited.
For Brown, this will be his 36th year riding. His father, Chuck Brown, is a 60-year member who will also ride this year.
“It’s been a family tradition. My older brother will come on the ride this year too,” Ron Brown said. “We’re basically just ordinary guys.”
To become a member, a man must be 21 years old. He must be invited by a member and ride as a guest for three rides within five years.
“After your third ride, if you’re eligible, your sponsor can submit an application,” Brown said. “If you make the selection, your name gets put on a ballot and you get voted on by the membership.”
A traditional ride involves riding through Bear Creek Park and spending the night at Frosty Park. Then, the men will ride to the main camp outside Cripple Creek and spend the rest of the week there.
The riders will ride their horses every day. On Friday, they have a “small ranch rodeo” involving games in a camp competition, Brown said.
The riders hire a camp crew that moves the entire camp by truck.
“We also have a professional commissary crew that prepares our meals. If a person goes hungry on this ride, it’s your own fault,” Brown said, laughing. “The food is great.”
Most of the riders own their own horses; some borrow from friends.
This year’s ride is slightly different. The men will ride from downtown Colorado Springs to the Norris-Penrose Events Center. From there, they will truck their horses to Mountain Meadows ranch, west of Pueblo in the Wet Mountains. They will ride various trails during the five-day event, but riders won’t take their horses to the camp. Still, riders will participate in a rodeo with games on Friday.
Sunday after the ride, the men invite the community leaders and their wives to an after-ride dinner. There, the group will award years of membership.
Winners of the events that took place on Friday will be awarded belt buckles.
“We top off the evening with our Silver Spur Award, which is given to an outstanding community leader of our area, somebody that we feel has gone above and beyond helping better the community. It’s a prestigious award,” Brown said.
Of the 200-plus members, 23 committees handle all the details, from feeding 170 riders and their horses, to sanitary facilities to determining which trails to ride.
“I like going back in time to the good old days where it’s just you and your horse in the country in the wilderness.” – Cory Shultz
“I like going back in time to the good old days where it’s just you and your horse in the country in the wilderness.”
– Cory Shultz
This year, Shultz helped plan the ride.
“It’s been eye-opening being one of the co-ride directors,” Shultz said. “We have to figure out how to feed 170 riders, get water and food to camp and lay out the camp — and get water and food to 170-some horses.”
But they insist it’s worth the work.
“It’s amazing. Something I look forward to year after year,” Shultz said. “I like going back in time to the good old days where it’s just you and your horse in the country in the wilderness.”
Jorgensen, who will celebrate 10 years this year, said: “It’s one of those rich Colorado Springs traditions. How can you not enjoy getting on a horse in this countryside with boots, jeans and a hat?”
Jorgensen said one of his favorite aspects of the ride is the Street Breakfast.
“You see families out with their kids,” Jorgensen said. “The kids have wide eyes looking at the cowboys and listening to the band.
“I was there when I was a little kid, and I took my kids to the breakfast. It is such a wonderful memory.”
For the breakfast, food will be served beginning at 5:30 a.m. and lasting until 9. The cost is $5, and children under 5 eat free. nCSBJ