Record turnouts for simultaneous Garden, Rock Ledge events Oct. 7
A balmy Saturday… two neighboring, nature-focused attractions… the Garden of the Gods... No admission fees…
No one can say for sure, but these factors likely all played a part in pushing the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center (“Fossil Day”) and Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site (“Harvest Festival”) to record turnouts Oct. 7.
Rock Ledge especially was inundated with visitors. According to ranch manager Andy Morris, more than 7,000 people dropped in during the seven-hour celebration of pioneer-era agriculture. “We usually get around half that,” he said.
He added another influence for the ranch's visitors: social media. “Besides the weather being beautiful, we were told by visitors that many of them came after we posted on Facebook, especially after Fort Carson shared it with other military,” Morris said.
At the Visitor & Nature Center, catty-corner from the ranch on the east side of 30th Street at Gateway Road, the total was 4,346, according to Bret Tennis, Colorado Springs Parks' operations administrator for the Garden of the Gods. It was the third year for the five-hour event, which was inspired by a unique dinosaur discovery in the area that's now the Garden. “It was a great day and we gave away a lot of fossils,” he said.
As for what drove the crowds, Tennis said, “I believe the biggest factor was the weather. Having extended cold weather days prior to the events - and with more cold weather expected to come - really helped our turnout for both events.”
The 22-year-old Visitor Center, which expanded in size two years ago to accommodate its growing popularity, has attracted even bigger crowds - usually for its annual Earth Day events in April.
But more than 7,000 people is a huge number for Rock Ledge Ranch. “We did 'survive without mishap,' but we will be making some changes to prepare for crowds of that size in the future,” Morris said, “such as more activities, police directing traffic at 30th and Gateway and more pumpkins, etc.”
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