Ethan Walton, 4, jumped and skipped around Sunday at Maybell Park, pretending he was a cowboy riding one of the many horses he watched trot through town.
“The horses were cool,” said Walton, of Idaho Springs, finding it difficult to suppress his enthusiasm.
Walton and many others saw about 850 horses come through Maybell during the Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.
About 50 guest riders and 15 ranch hands participated in the ride that spanned two days and covered more than 61 miles. The horses are herded from their wintering location in Browns Park to a ranch near Craig.
The drive has passed through Maybell for 51 years.
Queeda Mantle Walker, one of Sombrero Ranches’ founders, said watching the horse drive gave her a “great feeling of accomplishment.”
“It is my life,” she said. “I get to see all my family … you can’t imagine how satisfying that is.”
Walker called the drive a “celebration of spring,” and said it is a benefit to the community and, most importantly, local children.
“It’s the Old West tradition,” she said. “They get to see horses as an exciting thing, not just something you get on in a pony ring. I’m sure they all want to be cowboys after this because these cowboys are so much fun.”
Walker said it was nice to see a big turnout for the horse drive with people coming from all over the state.
“Maybell has made a party out of it and that is great,” she said.
Clay Tuttle, a guest rider in the horse drive from Dallas, said the drive is “a little bit of the Wild West.”
“When you are running full blast through country you’ve never seen, on horses you have never met, chasing horses, I mean, it just gets a little exciting up there,” he said.
Tuttle said riding in the horse drive is an “adventure.”
“You are always riding on the ragged edge and there is something fun about that,” he said.
Craig resident Crispin Martinez said the horse drive reminded him of riding horses when he was a kid growing up on a ranch in Mexico.
But, Martinez wasn’t in Maybell on Sunday just for the horse drive. He was there to participate in the Maybell Cultural Heritage Days, as well.
Heritage days, which began in 2004, took place in Maybell Park, just a few steps away from the path of the horse drive.
Heritage days organizer Lisa Balstad said this year’s event was the biggest in its short history, with about 1,500 people attending. Attendance doubled from last year, she added.
Heritage days started Saturday night with a potluck, pig-roast and dance in Maybell Park. About 350 people attended the dinner.
A fundraiser collected about $1,100 for improvements for Maybell Park. The money raised will go to the installation of new picnic tables and planting new trees in the park, Balstad said.
Jane Hume, of Craig, won the People’s Choice art show for her watercolor painting of a horse. This was the first year of the art show and entries were limited.
Heritage days visitors had a chance to shop for handmade items such as jewelry, artwork and crafts at about 20 vendor booths.
Among the various booths was a blacksmithing demonstration manned by Dale Wilson, of Cortez.
Wilson said he enjoys spending time demonstrating a trade to children that “makes a great hobby.”
“The kids get a big kick out of it,” he said.
Wilson, who has been making a hobby out of blacksmithing for about 40 years, said it is important to demonstrate the trade to reconnect younger generations with how things were made before modern technology.
Wilson said he also enjoys the uniqueness of an event like heritage days because it brings people together.
“It’s the people — they’re a lot of fun,” he said. “We talk about old times and catch up on the latest. It just gets bigger every year because people enjoy it so much.”
Michelle Rasmussen, who has lived in Craig about 13 years, said she attends both the horse drive and heritage days every year.
“A lot of people forget that Maybell is down here and what a neat place it is,” she said. “It’s something to bring awareness to the town.”
Celebrating the history of small towns like Maybell is important, she said.
“That is how everything started, in these small towns,” she said.