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Donkey derbies and gunfights at dawn in Colorado

23rd June 2010 Print

Take a step into yesteryear and celebrate Colorado’s western heritage with an exciting schedule of fun and unique attractions including vivid shoot outs, dude ranching, fascinating gold mine tours, spectacular re-enactments, and even a donkey derby.

Colorado western heritage celebrates the original founders that built and laid claim to the diverse towns and cities of the state. Visitors to the Centennial state, with an enthusiasm for the Wild West, can experience the rich western atmosphere with festivals and events throughout the summer that celebrate the clothing, tribes, gunfights, saloons, dance halls, cowboys, rodeos and civil war heroes from days gone by.

Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region have together rustled up an entire summer’s worth of family fun called the Pikes Peak Western Heritage Days. Residents have already embraced the theme with the successful ’Ride Your Horse To Work Week’ and until the end of August, guests are invited to join in with the festivities to celebrate the cowboy, local gold mining, and American Indian heritage with mine tours, fundraising cocktail events, buffalo BBQs, cattle drives and rodeo parades.

Cripple Creek’s largest annual event is the Donkey Derby. Now in it’s 79th year, people from all over the world descend for this two-day jamboree to enjoy donkey races, inspired by the town’s resident donkey herd that are distant relatives of the original Gold Rush Days. The event also features a line up of games, live entertainment and family activities to keep everyone entertained throughout the two days.

In July, Downtown Victor, in central Colorado, will be holding its annual Gold Rush Day festivities. Dating back to 1895, the event honours original settler, Victor C. Adams, who the town was named after. Anchoring the event is the 10k Gold Rush Run with events including a themed parade, gold panning, mining games and a number of mine tours of the area.

Durango, south-west Colorado, is also commemorating their western heritage this summer with the beginning of their traditional western saloon gunfights. The staged event between Diamond Belle Saloon, Durango’s original Ragtime piano bar, and the historic Strater Hotel is a re-enactment between the notorious bandits and traditional lawman with numerous action-packed storylines that spill onto the streets for the climax - a dramatic shoot off. For a small fee, guests of the Strater Hotel can try their hand at acting and get involved in the action with supporting roles. The performances take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7pm throughout the summer.

For a self guided tour that can be taken advantage of throughout the year, the cosmopolitan city of Denver is littered with history from the beginning of the ‘Rush to the Rockies’. Once home to mining and railroading industries, the city was once the hub of western culture. A walk into Lower Downtown (LoDo) takes in the first railroad linking the city with the transcontinental rail road at Union Station. For cowboy fanatics, Rockmount Ranch Wear boasts hundreds of decorative stylish shirts, counting many celebrities as fans. Meanwhile Colorado Saddlery is one of the finest saddle makers in the west – even John Wayne went here! Extending its range to include lariats, bridles and spurs, you will leave looking the part as a fully-fledged cowboy or girl!

Other exhibits and museums showcasing Colorado’s western history in Denver include the Denver History Museum, Molly Brown House Museum, Denver Art Museum, Black American History Museum and slightly out of town, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.

If you’re still craving more cowboy action, combine your holiday with a visit to one of Colorado’s 30 approved* guest ranches. Hone your cowboy skills with the chance to eat, sleep and work alongside real cowboys and share their passion to learn the tricks of the trade. Suitable for couples, families, and singles, guests are invited to join in with riding, herding and the odd barn dance! Some ranches extend to cattle round ups, overnight pack trips and family rodeos for a thrilling experience.

* Ranches are approved by the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association.

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