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Range Riders bring back avenue days of yesteryear

Allison Mitchell (left), Aide to the Girl of the West, and Rachel Braaten, Girl of the West, wave as they ride up Colorado Avenue during the Range Ride June 17.
Westside Pioneer photo
       On the morning of June 17, traffic on West Colorado Avenue got a taste of yesteryear, as about 200 participants in this year's Pikes Peak Range Ride ambled up the thoroughfare on horseback.
       Accompanied by a rolling police barricade starting around 8 a.m., the riders embarked after the also-annual Street Breakfast in downtown Colorado Springs.
       The entourage continued through Old Colorado City, then eventually into the Garden of the Gods, before ending up at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site parking lot a little over two hours later.
       After that, they were scheduled to begin a multi-day trail ride/campout, stopping at mountain towns with the goal of publicizing the annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo (July 8-11 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center on Lower Gold Camp Road).
       The riders consist mostly of area business people who own their horses. Rodeo profits go to the Pikes Peak or Bust Foundation, which supports military charities.
       In its 67th year, the Range Ride is predominantly symbolic now, but dates back to a pre-TV/Internet era when the riders actually spread the news about the rodeo to the mountain communities.
       This year's event marked only the second time in recent years that the post-breakfast ride has come up the avenue. However, according to Rachel Braaten, the rodeo's 2015 Girl of the West, that was always the route in the ride's early years when Colorado Avenue was still the main road up Ute Pass. “They didn't have trailers then,” she said in an interview. “They'd ride up the avenue and straight to their camp on Pikes Peak.”
       The last time the avenue route was used (turning into Red Rock Canyon Open Space at 31st Street on that occasion) was 2011. “It's exciting for us to take the original route,” Braaten said. “We can relive their traditions. It's awesome to have that kind of history.”
       The Aide to the Girl of the West is chosen annually through an annual judging process considering horse-handling and interview/ speech skills, and she becomes the Girl of the West the next year.

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