The Durango Cowboy Gathering, known as “the largest nonmotorized parade in Colorado,” brought all it’s got on Saturday morning on Main Avenue where hundreds of residents and visitors filled the sidewalks to keep memories of the Old West alive.
Celebrating the Durango Cowboy Gathering’s 35th anniversary, people dressed in their best cowboy and cowgirl outfits to fit the Western theme. About 300 people and 70 horses (and ponies) trotted down Main Avenue, guided by representatives of various area organizations, including but not limited to The Western Roundup, The Bayfield Belles, Four Corners Backcountry Horsemen, Four Corners 4-H Club and the Girl Scouts of Colorado.
Durango community events administrator Ellen Babers said there were 34 parade entries in total, and between 1,500 and 2,000 people attended the parade. Spectators coalesced on both sides of Main Avenue to root and holler for parade participants.
Plenty of the wagons and trailers parading downtown played classic country and Western-themed songs, including “You Are My Sunshine” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light.”
The music was a big draw for many attendees. Santa Fe resident Buck Kashiwa said the music and poetry reciting at other Cowboy Gathering events this week is why he shows up almost every year.
“It’s the clean humor, the love stories and the stories of the Old West” that keeps him involved, he said.
Kashiwa attends Cowboy Gatherings every year across the country. He said the biggest gathering to his knowledge is the event in Elko, Nevada, but other notable gathering spots are Alpine, Texas, and Cimarron, New Mexico.
“I just love the way that the folks are coming out and supporting the poets,” he said. “It’s kind of a preservationist thing. Keeping old, good stuff alive.”
Teri Ryan and Suzanne Eckstin of Durango said they love the “authenticity of stepping back in time,” noting the Western period costumes and nonmotorized parade.
“I just love the history of Durango. And I think it’s cool that so many people come out to see and care about it,” Eckstin said. “I have friends (who) raise cattle. … I think it’s a hugely respected profession and I’m grateful that we have access to all the ranchers and cattle producers.”
Ryan said it’s “precious” that cattle ranchers today have kept their traditional livelihoods alive and she respects them.
Michael Morvan, a retired lieutenant of the United States Navy, said “the music and the colorful history” of Southwest Colorado and Durango are what brought him out on Saturday.
Elaine Morvan, Michael’s wife, said they attended a poetry reading at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 on Friday evening and the music at the event was “fabulous.”
“They had a lot of emotional songs. Some of the people in the audience were actually tearful,” Michael said. “Tomorrow, we are going to do a two-hour horseback ride up at the Bears Ranch with our whole family and 11-year-old daughter.”
Babers said the Cowboy Gathering organizers, led by Pam Jacobs, aimed to make the parade and other events bigger and better than ever before in order to keep the memory and tradition of Old West lifestyles alive.
“Really inclusive for townsfolk and ranch folks,” she said.