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The Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs has officially broken ground on the highly anticipated reconstruction of its famous, family-friendly property. The first shovel hit the ground at the end of June, but to residents of Colorado Springs and the ranch’s many return visitors, it is a celebration that has been six years in the making. The Flying W Ranch is poised to re-open by May of 2020, but there’s a chance it could do a soft opening sooner if building goes well over the next few months. Now, if you’re not familiar with the Flying W Ranch, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Read on to learn why we — and everyone else — are so excited to giddy-up to the newly revamped ranch in 2020.
The Historic Flying W Ranch
The Pikes Peak region has always been home to ranches, cowboys and other accouterments of the wild, wild west. Before 1953, the Flying W Ranch was an honest-to-goodness cattle ranch, but it would find its purpose shifting in the second half of the 20th century. While it kept its cowboy heart, the ranch began to serve tourists who flocked to Colorado Springs to enjoy the western flair, purple mountains majesty and quirky local culture. It has been locally owned by the Wolfe family since 1953 and the beloved patriarch of the family and founder of the attraction we have enjoyed for so long, Russ Wolfe, passed away in March of this year at the age of 94.
Bringing Cowboy Flair to the People
The Flying W Ranch is famous for its chuckwagon suppers, served in the great outdoors in the style of the cattle drives of old. Home-cooked barbeque, baked beans, biscuits — it’s the epitome of hearty pioneer food and tasty as all get-out. You can find yourself at one of these meals from late spring all the way into fall, but don’t fret if you can’t find your way there (you should definitely find your way there). The winter brings visitors to the Picketwire Bar, an indoor destination with slightly fancier fare, and by that, we mean steak, of course.
Even more popular than its chuckwagon suppers are the cowboy singalongs hosted by none other than the Flying W Wranglers. These folks are part of one of the oldest western singing groups in the world. The ranch’s original cowboys founded the group and even produced their tunes (when they weren’t doing all the cowboy stuff like feeding and herding cows). You can still catch a new generation of singers after dinner along with other fun shows, comedy and lots of good-natured audience teasing.
The Waldo Canyon Fire
After 59 great years providing western family fun to visitors and locals, tragedy struck the ranch. The Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed so much of the Pikes Peak region and Colorado Springs also took its toll on the Flying W Ranch, decimating all but one of the structures in 2012. It was heart-wrenching for the Wolfe family, who had worked steadfastly to keep the ranch in premium shape for many years, devoted to providing a taste of the west to all who visited. If that were not bad enough, the following year saw even more destruction, this time in the form of flooding, a common occurrence once fire has razed the land. Most people probably would have thrown in the towel — and the Wolfes likely wanted to at times. But, with the support of the city and the community, and the tenacity that kept the Flying W Ranch running for decades, they finally reached a turning point where they had more than hope to keep them afloat.
The Future of the Flying W Ranch
After a whole lot of heartache, there are many exciting things afoot at the Flying W Ranch. With the groundbreaking at the end of June, the construction crew has just under a year to raise the barn for excited visitors in 2020. Today, the property is green and fresh and ready for its new journey with its old traditions. Native American dancers will still visit to perform traditional dances, the chuckwagon will commence its cooking and the cowboys will sing the sweet songs of old. A newer, larger event center will replace the previous structure, meaning more room for fun festivities with new friends and neighbors. They’ll have the gardens and animal yards (including a donkey barn!) and all the brides who once dreamed of getting hitched in true western style better polish up their boots (and their grooms) because the Flying W Ranch is definitely down to marry off folks in love. And we can’t forget the concerts and exploring and fall events and cozying up on hay bales and barbeque …
More changes are still to come, but for now, we don’t think we’re alone in saying we’d be just plain satisfied to sit under the stars, tuck into some barbeque and then sing the songs of the west like we did just six short years ago. Everything else after that is just gravy.