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Western Street Breakfast sends off Pikes Peak Range Riders in style

June 19, 2017 Updated: June 21, 2017 at 7:04 am
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Fort Carson soldiers get their grub on during the annual Colorado Springs Western Street Breakfast on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (Hugh Johnson, The Gazette)

Come Wednesday morning, Chris Whitney and his reliable steed Cowboy will once again dine and dash.

Well, as much dashing as a horse and his rider can do in an ambling group of about 165 Pikes Peak Range Riders.

It's the annual Colorado Springs Western Street Breakfast, where upward of 10,000 folks gather together downtown to sup on pancakes, eggs, coffee, juice and milk, before waving goodbye to the Range Riders as they clippity-clop off on their five-day ride in support of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in July.

The riders will make tracks to Norris-Penrose Event Center, where they'll pack up trailers and head to a ranch near Guffey for daily rides and a small rodeo competition for those inclined.

In previous years the breakfast has raised about $10,000 to support local military charities and families.

"Through the Pikes Peak Range Riders Foundation we're able to be helpful in lot of things in the community," said Whitney, brand commissioner for Colorado Department of Agriculture. "The breakfast, Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, Pikes Peak Rangerettes - we can promote good things in the community and help the community out."

The early morning meal will also feature performances by the Flying W Wranglers, Colorado Springs Conservatory, Native American hoop dancers and an appearance by Girl of the West and Aide to the Girl of the West. Young visitors can partake in the kids corral and other child-friendly activities. The Range Riders will depart at 8 a.m.

The all-male pack of horsemen hail from all walks of life - they're doctors, lawyers, ranchers, businessmen, emergency responders. The current count of riders stands at 224, Whitney said, though not all of them make the annual ride.

After finishing the required minimum of three rides nine years ago, and completing an internship of sorts by helping out with camp duties on the annual rides, including serving meals and mingling with the other members, Whitney was voted into the herd.

"I'm sort of a cowboy and recovering lawyer at heart," he said. "I've been following them (Range Riders) for many years in the community, and I'm ex-military so I share a lot of what they try to do and what their values are and try to promote the Western way of life."

The breakfast got its start in 1936 as a way to bring awareness to the rodeo. After the Range Riders formed in 1949 to promote the rodeo and carry on Western heritage, they decided to make the street breakfast their starting point. Thirty-five men took off on horseback for the group's first ride in 1950. Traditionally, the route took the men around Pikes Peak, but now that public lands are involved, the group opts for more easily accessible locations around the state.

"It's a good group and I consider myself fortunate to be part of it," Whitney said. "And we consider it fortunate to be part of Western heritage and to do something Western for our community."

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