Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs has stolen the hearts of millions of visitors over the years. Almost eight million, to be exact. Secluded high above the city, this breathtaking 1400-acre working cattle ranch continues to keep the old west alive.
Since 1953, Flying W Ranch has served up chuckwagon suppers to more than 600 people a night, six nights a week, to visitors from all over the world. Dinner is followed by a western stage show performed by the world-famous Flying W Wranglers.
“Places like Flying W Ranch are at the top of our list for visitors who want to experience the Western history and roots of Colorado Springs,” says Alexea Veneracion, Director of Communications at Visit Colorado Springs. “Flying W Ranch is one of those special places that has been operating for decades. People have visited it for generations.”
It's a Family Affair
Leigh Ann Wolfe runs the show now. She's the third generation owner of the Ranch. Her grandparents first dreamt up the idea for the entertainment venue.
Russ and Marion Wolfe saw their opportunity when city folk began coming to the Ranch to enjoy a horseback ride through the rambling countryside. The couple started offering guests a chance to stay and enjoy a home-cooked meal with fireside entertainment, all for a mere $3 per person.
Word spread quickly; by year's end, they had served 1,650 people, and Russ and Marion were officially in business.
“The depth of the legacy built over more than six decades by my grandparents and parents was enormous,” Leigh Ann Wolfe explains.
Her work in the family business has expanded that living legacy. Under her leadership, Flying W Ranch now serves over 175,000 people yearly.
Scot Johnson, CFA at Adell, Harriman & Carpenter, Inc., puts into perspective how unique their story is:
“The typical family-owned business lasts about a quarter century. Around 40% of those businesses transition from the founder to a succeeding generation while only a little over 10% of family-owned businesses make it to a third generation.”
It almost didn't.
Waldo Canyon Fire Destroys the Ranch
At the height of Flying W Ranch's popularity, the Waldo Canyon Fire consumed all but a handful of buildings on the property. It took eight years for the Ranch to reopen its doors.
Leigh Ann Wolfe says, “Although I knew there would be a lot of personal sacrifices if I tried to rebuild the Ranch, the alternative was unthinkable.”
It's clear Wolfe has succeeded. By the size of the crowds – often selling out the venue – it's apparent the reopening filled an entertainment void only the Flying W Ranch could fill.
Families aren't the only ones attracted to the venue.
Corporations Are Also Taking Notice
In rebuilding, Wolfe realized they had a unique opportunity to create a facility that could also serve the needs of corporations.
The Flying W Ranch now sports a unique six-million-dollar facility
with rolling glass walls exposing the stunning Colorado scenery on all sides.
The Ranch can host elite corporate events of up to 1200 people, and it's not uncommon for businesses to book the entire facility for a private event.
According to Wolfe, “The Flying W is now hosting private, black tie rodeos as well as Boots and Diamonds cattle drives. While we continue to serve our customers with the nightly chuckwagon dinners, we're also leaning into serving corporations as part of our growth strategy.”
The US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs recently booked a class reunion at the Ranch. Wolfe hopes to secure more corporate events where they can put on a private rodeo at the facility.
Wolfe states, “once the corporate decision maker comes and tours our property, they are usually very pleasantly surprised at all we offer.”
Destination management companies are also taking notice of The Flying W Ranch. Wolfe says they often cater to guests from places like The Broadmoor, a five-star resort in Colorado Springs. “They request high-quality wines and amenities, and we can provide that experience for them.” This often includes hosting private chuckwagon dinners on the one night a week Flying W is closed to the public.
The Flying W Wranglers
The highlight of the evening is a one-hour concert put on by the world-renowned Flying W Wranglers—a delight for guests of all ages.
The Flying W Wranglers is the world's second oldest western singing band. They have entertained on international stages, performed with world-class symphonies, and are well deserving of the music awards they've won.
Over the years, 60 individuals have been a part of the Flying W Wranglers.
However, the band had no place to perform during the eight years following the destruction caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire. Once the new facility was built, and the Flying W Ranch prepared to reopen in July 2020, over 300 musicians auditioned for the five available positions. What came together is nothing short of magical, and the legendary performances of the Flying W Wranglers are a large part of the success story at Flying W Ranch.
Experience an Old Fashioned Chuckwagon Dinner
What about this working cattle ranch sparks such an interest and keeps people coming back, even decades later? Flying W Ranch offers a unique experience for visitors. Guests arriving early can explore the property before dinner, play a game of horseshoes, pet the ranch animals, and ride the miniature train.
Once the dinner bell rings, the organized chaos of getting 600 people through the chuckwagon dinner line begins. Tin plates and foil-wrapped baked potatoes cooked over the fire add to the nostalgic feeling of dinner time in the old west.
Rodney Blunt of Our Woven Journey says, “Over the years, my wife spoke fondly of her memories visiting Flying W Ranch as a child. Returning to Colorado Springs with her and bringing our children to experience the Ranch felt like a full-circle experience.”
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Karee Blunt is the founder of OurWovenJourney.com, a travel blog focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.