Chuckwagons add to spectacle (and taste buds) at Ride for the Brand

       Attendees at the Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo June 30 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center had no excuse for going into the stadium hungry.

Ready with food, the Lizzie II chuckwagon team poses outside the Ride for the Brand Rodeo June 30. From left are Rex Wailes, Sheryl Wailes, Royce Pindell and Phil Lown.
Westside Pioneer photo

       With five chuckwagon kitchens cooking Western-style meals simultaneously before the event, people who paid a separate fee could sample all of them and then vote for their favorites.
       The wagons - all looking straight out of century-ago cattle drives - had all come long distances. They were the Grubelnik Ranch wagon, from Lubbock, Texas, the Rafter JB wagon, from the Conway ranch in Cambridge, Kansas; the Solano Wagon Company, from San Jon, New Mexico; the Lizzie II, from Bennett, Colorado; and the Withers Ranch wagon, from Hugo, Colorado.
       The fare they served proved popular. Within less than an hour of serving time, most were out of food or close to it, as several hundred people filled their plates.
       Grubelnik took first overall (a prize of cash and belt buckles). However, fourth-generation ranch owner Dale Grubelnik - approached while he was serving food with his fifth-generation son - said the real pleasure was having people say they liked his wagon's grub. “It's an honor thing for us if people come back and tell us that,” he said.
       Historically styled chuckwagons have been making a comeback among Western ranches in recent years, reflecting an interest in tradition and in some cases a chance to earn income.
       Started by Scott O'Malley and Associates in 2003, Ride for the Brand has been sponsored annually since 2009 by the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, which splits its proceeds between military charities and the event's Working Ranch Cowboys Association.
       According to Nikki Wall of the foundation, the rodeo's chuckwagon food was donated by Mike Callicrate of Ranch Foods Direct, “with free hamburgers for kids.”
       To make the competition even, all the chuckwagons had the same ingredients for chicken-fried-type steaks, beans, gravy, mashed potatoes, biscuits and cobbler, but had the freedom to cook them up their own ways.
       Becky Conway had no regrets about the long trip to Colorado Springs and back to Kansas. “The friends and good people here make it worth it,” she said.

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