(CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo.) — On Friday morning, Aug. 11, the streets of downtown Cripple Creek began to fill with vendors setting up their tents for the 92nd Annual Donkey Derby Days. The weekend-long festival celebrates the rich heritage of the mining city and the donkeys who helped build it.

“This has been so fun,” said Annie Valades, Co-Chair of Donkey Derby Days. “It’s been bringing together volunteers, people I’ve never known, stimulating the city and the community, and helping the donkeys.”

The donkeys are taken care of by the Two Mile High Club, a non-profit organization that helps shelter, feed, and care for these animals.

The Cripple Creek Donkeys are taken care of by the Two Mile High Club.

“The Two Mile High Club came into existence in 1931 just to take care of those donkeys,” said Former President of the Two Mile High Club, Curt Sorenson. “We’ve been doing that ever since, so we’re the oldest nonprofit in the state of Colorado. We take care of these donkeys. They take care of the community. They’re ambassadors for Cripple Creek.”

Quite literally – the donkeys are the mascot of Cripple Creek. Sorenson said visitors immediately ask where they can find the donkeys when they first arrive.

“The people who come to visit, they always ask two things, ‘Where’s the bathroom and where’s the donkeys,'” Sorenson said. “We really enjoy having visitors and we enjoy the fact that they enjoy the donkeys as much as we do.”

Back in February, FOX21 News visited Cripple Creek to speak with the Two Mile High Club, as there was the fear this year’s event might not happen.

But the community was able to rally together and raise enough funds to continue the beloved tradition.

“It is so exciting,” Valades said. “It’s like none of us can believe we’re finally here. We have the best committee, and so many hardworking people that have taken on big chunks of making this happen and it’s finally here and we’re going. I think we did it.”

Valades explained how the news even reached a media source in Canada, making the story of the Cripple Creek Donkeys international.

“One group that picked us up were the public radio stations in Canada, and we had more than 400 stations throughout Canada broadcast the release of the donkeys on May 31st, which pre-empted all of the details about Donkey Derby Days,” said Valades.

Evidently, Donkey Derby Days is the biggest fundraiser for the Two Mile High Club and helps keep the donkeys happy and healthy in the city.

“This is the biggest fundraiser for the Two Mile High Club,” Valades said. “Each donkey takes approximately $2,000 a year. We have a herd of 15 and they are sheltered, fed, watered, medicated, all of those things. It takes money to do that, folks. This is a nonprofit. We survive on grants, donations, and fundraisers. This is the biggest fundraiser.”

This weekend, the city will welcome thousands of people from all over the state and country to see the donkey celebrities.

Signs are hung up all through downtown Cripple Creak, ready for the weekend-long festivities.

“Historically, they estimate between 8,000 and 10,000 people a day,” Valades said. “That’s on the big days, Saturday and Sunday. But… the streets of Cripple Creek have already been full since Thursday, full of cars.”

On Saturday, the Donkey Derby Day Parade will kick off at 11 a.m., followed by the Donkey Derby Races, which FOX21’s Rachel Sauer and Tyler Bouldin will be participating in. There also is a Kid Zone and more than 70 vendors set up selling all their unique treasures.

Vendors line the streets of downtown Cripple Creek on Friday morning. Courtesy: Cora Mitchell.

“So come and have a good time. Buy a t-shirt, buy a beer, put a little money in a donation jar so we can feed these guys,” said Sorenson.

If you plan to make the drive to Cripple Creek, Valades shared several tips to enjoy the weekend.

“We have a shuttle service running throughout the city on a continuous loop starting up at the Heritage Center,” Valades said. “So if you don’t want to get lost in the downtown traffic, you can take a shuttle, hop on, hop off… good walking shoes on, wear sunscreen, drink lots of water, we’re at almost 10,000 feet.”

One of the donkeys received a treat from a visitor on Friday morning.

For 92 years, the city has celebrated the donkeys, and Valades is confident this tradition will continue for many more years to come.