Cowboys, cowgirls, businessmen and families milled about downtown on Wednesday morning enjoying pancakes and live music while supporting Fort Carson aid agencies and many others.
The Colorado Springs Street Breakfast, held on the corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street, saw about 4,500 people.
The Sertoma Clubs of Colorado Springs provided the food, while Fort Carson provided the equipment and served the eggs and pancakes. Volunteers were prepared to feed up to 3,000-4,000 people, with proceeds going to Fort Carson aide agencies for soldiers and their families.
For 53 years, the breakfast has served to celebrate western heritage and kick off the rodeo season in Colorado Springs. The event is a collaboration between the city, Fort Carson, Pikes Peak Range Riders and area Sertoma Clubs.
This year, Pikes Peak Range Riders held cowboy boots and collected donations totaling $5,180.63 for Black Forest fire victims. While they don't know which organizations the money will go to yet, organizers plan to donate the money to people affected by the fire soon.
"People are pretty benevolent," said Brett Axton, a Range Rider and Sertoma member who co-chairs the Street Breakfast. He has been a Sertoma member for 28 years, running the breakfast for about 20 of those.
"This is the right thing to do by being here and supporting our community," Axton said, noting that 35 Range Rider members were affected by the fire, at least two losing their ranches.
Axton said that a lot of people at the breakfast had lost their homes, alluding to tears and hugs. "They appreciate it," he said.
While some left downtown on horseback, the annual Range Ride was canceled this year because of the Black Forest fire, only the second time since the ride started in 1949 that it has been canceled, the other in 2002 because of the Hayman fire.
"This year is special because we have the opportunity to come out here and support the local community," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Geier, the Ft. Carson officer in charge of the event.
"For all the planning and preparation that went into it, it was an overall success," said Sgt. 1st Class Francis Orcutt as he stood near the food trucks and watched volunteers dish out pancakes. His 65 food service specialists arrived around 1:30 a.m. to set up for the 5:30 breakfast with an additional 40 military personnel for support.
When you go through something like the Black Forest fire, it's good to let off a bit of steam and attend the breakfast to "get your cowboy on," said the event's emcee, Scott Turner, of Pikes Peak National Bank who works with the Sertoma Club.
"What we're trying to do is link a lot of events together to celebrate our Western Heritage," said Mike Jorgensen, president of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Board, which hosts the 73rd annual Rodeo Days July 10-13 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center.
Many sat on hay bales at the breakfast while absorbing the sun, forking pancakes and soaking in music from the five-person Durango Drifters band.
Staff Sgt. Rita Gutierrez-Nunez, part of one 25-person ort Carson battalion at the event, appreciated the music. "They were better than last year," she said, adding that she loves the group's lead singer, Ashlee Brauer.
Shantel Williams attended with her two sons, 4 and 11, and 8-year-old daughter to the breakfast. "It was nice," she said moments after about 155 Pikes Peak Range Riders, Pikes Peak Pivots, Girls of the West and Fort Carson Color Guard left on horseback. The three enjoyed the sights and sounds for more than an hour. "The pancakes were big."
Andy and Camie Dukes brought their 3-year-old daughter Emelia to the breakfast. "We thought it'd be fun for her to come down," said Camie, who's lived locally nearly her whole life but has never gone to the event. "It was really good. We were impressed," she said of the breakfast. "We'll definitely come out again."