Horses put on a show in Maybell

— The sounds of the Sombrero Ranches' horse drive echoed through downtown Maybell Sunday -- the click-clack of hooves on asphalt, the crack of the whip on the animals' backs and the snaps of camera shutters as horses raced by eager bystanders.

The fact that the wranglers arrived later than expected didn't seem to deter many of the spectators who came out for the event.

Dana and Janice Scism of Churchill, Tenn., have been planning to come to the drive for more than three years, so a couple of extra hours didn't bother them.

"We're going to open the back of the car, crawl in and just smell them as they go by," Janice said as they waited along U.S. Highway 40.

The horses and riders were expected to pass through Maybell between 9 a.m. and noon. They made their appearance around 2:30 p.m., and spectators seemed to think the sight was worth the wait.

The drive started near Browns Park Saturday, where the horses spent the winter months. The wranglers guided them through the terrain and turned them onto Highway 40 just before they approached Maybell.

Queeda Mantle Walker, who owns Sombrero with her children and their spouses, said the company has been running the drive through the small town since 1965.

"My brother, Pat Mantle, made it a big, county-wide event," she said.

She is excited that Maybell community members are promoting the event as a tourist attraction.

"It's something that Maybell has that's unique," organizer Lisa Balstad said. "We were thinking 50 people would be great, but we exceeded that."

This is the first year the drive has been promoted as a planned event. The community members work with the cultural heritage tourism group that's focusing on what towns in Northwest Colorado can do to bring in visitors.

"We were used to these things and we didn't realize what we have," organizer Wilma Taylor-Baker said.

And those who attended liked the small-town charm.

"It kind of reminds me of a family reunion, but not everyone's related," Nancy Distefano of Denver said.

Becker's Concession and Catering set up a trailer and sold breakfast and lunch items, and stayed busy while spectators waited for the show.

Lynn Haskins, owner of the Maybell Store, was slammed with customers as well.

"It's a very unique horse drive," the 25-year resident said. "They're hardly held anymore. And it's neat to have for Mother's Day."

Mothers, fathers and children spent the day at Maybell Community Park, climbing on the playground equipment, enjoying a game of dominoes at the picnic tables and dining at the Maybell Restaurant.

Meanwhile, the wranglers were corralling their animals after many got loose Saturday.

"Lightning struck in Browns Park last night and the horses bolted," Mantle Walker said.

By the time the herd reached Maybell, there were 416 horses still with them. After a rest just west of Maybell, the group headed to Big Gulch near Lay.

Mantle Walker said she has more paying customers riding as wranglers than she does ones she has to pay. The program, which requires four days of training before the drive, has grown as a tourist attraction.

Of the 25 wranglers in this weekend's ride, 20 paid to go. If they survive the whole trip, they receive a gate-to-gate buckle for the achievement.

Maybell viewers did not have to pay to watch and Balstad said the horse drive is an event that may boost Maybell's popularity. She hopes will continue and expand in future years.

For more information on Sombrero Ranches, visit www.sombrero.com or call 303-442-0258.

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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