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Historical Gardner Chuckwagon Dinner – 8/5/17

Celebrating 75 years in the same location!

Chuchwagon signsml

(editor: this piece edited for space and update dates – to read the original  it in its entirety – click here)

By Kay Beth Faris Avery

When the summer sun shines as bright as it gets in the Sangre de Cristo foothills, hundreds of old friends from throughout the nation travel to Gardner, Colorado to reminisce about old times and enjoy pleasant camaraderie. The smells of pit roasted beef and buttered corn-on-the- cob fill the air, along with the aromas of baked beans, hot biscuits, potatoes and gravy, strong cowboy coffee, iced tea, lemonade, and homemade pies.

Annual chuckwagon dinners in the upper Huerfano River Valley boast a long tradition that began with Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving’s first cattle drive in 1866. It was in this year that Goodnight invented the chuckwagon …

… In 1904, ranchers on the upper Huerfano River formed the Cuerno Verde Cattle Association so they could act as a unit in protecting brands, rounding up rustlers, and lobbying government agencies. These stockmen and their hired cowboys branded calves together in the spring, drove their herds together onto the lush pastures atop Greenhorn Mountain in the early summer, and herded their steers to market together in the late fall. The association’s autumn roundups often included more than 10,000 cattle and took up to six weeks to complete. Every morning and every evening during those six weeks all the riders from outfits large and small ate their meals together around the same chuckwagon.

The open range round-ups ended in the 1930s, and in 1942 the Gardner Methodist Church congregation sponsored the first “official” ChuckWagon Dinner as a fund raiser for the church. Six and a half decades later, aging church members turned over the organization of the annual event to Jan and Ray Garcia, who created a non-profit organization. Now proceeds from the dinner fund scholarships for area students and capital improvements within the entire community.

August 5, 2017, marks the 75th time that the Gardner ChuckWagon Dinner will be held in the yard behind the Methodist Church. The actual chuckwagon has been replaced with a church kitchen and a large underground roasting pit; but the corn is still boiled over an open flame in cast iron kettles and many of the makeshift picnic tables are supported by hay bales, giving the scene a genuine rustic flavor. The celebration begins at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on site for $10 per adult/ $5 per child. For more details, contact Ray Garcia at ergarcia69@hotmail.com.

 

Some Images and bit of history

Click the image for a larger view!

 early chuckwagon On the left is a photo of a chuckwagon doing its job … keeping the cowboys fed on a roundup.

On the right is an image of the chuckwagon involved with keeping the folks fed who have gathered for an early Gardner Chuckwagon Dinner Celebration!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As the time passed the Chuckwagon Dinner continued to grow popularity and numbers. The hay bale table system (seen on the left) was developed.

Today the celebrants are shaded by a large open sided pole barn where they enjoy a great pit roasted beef dinner with all the trimmings along with much lively conversation!

happy eaters
 Jan Garcia The glue that binds the Gardner Chuckwagon Dinner Celebration together is the team of Jan and Ray Garcia (pit master) shown here on the left and right as they relax after another successful year! Ray and Max chuckwagonsml

 

Below are some images from past Chuckwagon Dinners
Click on an image for a larger view!

  • Young guest seems to be asking - Where's the Beef?
    Young guest seems to be asking - Where's the Beef?
  • Roasting Pit cooling down surrounded by beef going home with some lucky guests!
    Roasting Pit cooling down surrounded by beef going home with some lucky guests!
  • Story time with friends (old and new)
    Story time with friends (old and new)
  • Time to get in the corn line!
    Time to get in the corn line!
  • Corn's done!
    Corn's done!
  • Corn Pot heating up.
    Corn Pot heating up.
  • 500 pounds of beef roasted for the 2010 Gardner Chuckwagon Dinner - click on the image and read all about it!