Old and New Friends at The Sunset BBQ

Two weeks ago, I attended my first Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) Sunset BBQ. The Elk Ranch, outside Colorado Springs, provided the perfect location for guests to see one of Colorado’s unique high mountain ranches. The Johnson/Hammond family, hosts of the event, went above and beyond to make sure that guests were able to experience everything that the ranch had to offer.

Because the location of the BBQ was remote, I was impressed and inspired that so many loyal guests and supporters braved the road conditions and made the trip through the mountains in the shadow of Pikes Peak. The BBQ was nothing short of a hit, and proved to be CCALT’s largest and most successful event yet. It was also a historic evening, as there had never been a higher concentration of people in the East Beaver Valley at one time.

Following the day-time excursions, the evening was filled with wonderful company, good food and fantastic bluegrass music. One moment in particular stood out to me as a first time BBQ attendee. Mid-way through the night, a woman wearing vintage cowboy boots and a rhinestone vest, who was newly introduced to our organization, noticed my “staff” name tag and approached me to ask, “What kind of people usually come to these events?” I had to think for a moment before giving her an answer:

Looking around the room, I saw ranchers, lawyers, nurses, consultants, conservationists, politicians, cattlemen, and teachers. There were young people, old people, parents, toddlers, and everything in between. I promptly realized that I couldn’t give her a singular answer. There was no one type of person that came to this event, and furthermore, there was/is not one type of person who supports CCALT.

Our land conservation work in Colorado encompasses more than just ranchers and ranches; it relates to anyone who lives in Colorado and enjoys open spaces and outdoor lifestyles. The land is the common thread that connects each one of us, no matter our background, interests, or history. CCALT’s efforts to protect ranching families and agriculture have helped foster healthy communities and preserve the Colorado that many other people in the state have come to know and love.

I can’t think of many other places where bolo ties and cowboy boots, leather jackets and sandals can be found under the same event tent; where guests can take jeep tours, trail rides, and fly fish all in the same day. The expanse of land conservation and the wide variety of people who support it are what make events like this unique, and the Elk Ranch and the guests who attended the Sunset BBQ are proof of that.

The definition of a supporter is, “a person who approves of and encourages someone or something.” No matter how you look at it, the 2015 Summer BBQ was a success. It brought old and new supporters, from all walks of life together to celebrate 20 years of land conservation in Colorado, something we all encourage and care about. When I finally thought of my answer, I turned to the woman in the vintage boots and replied simply, “everyone.”

Guests get a bird’s eye view while taking a tour of the ranch via horseback. (photo credit: Sandi Turecek)