CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — Donkey Derby Days celebrated its 91st anniversary on Saturday with a day full of festivities to honor the rich history of the town.

Donkey Derby Days tops the list of favorite Cripple Creek events, according to the town. Communities all around Colorado attend the event believing the donkeys to be distant relatives of the original donkeys from the town’s Gold Rush days.

The event hosted three race heats with a final top five final race. Guests enjoyed a beer tent, food vendors, a parade and a Special John Denver tribute concert.

According to Cripple Creek Donkeys, Donkeys have been an integral part of mining throughout the ages. Their role in Cripple Creek’s great gold rush was as important as the railroads, the merchants, and even the miners themselves.

Donkeys were a reliable form of transportation because they were able to climb narrow trails along the rough slopes, said Cripple Creek Donkeys. Their ability to carry heavy loads made them invaluable companions in the camps.

The creatures were also used in underground mines, stated Cripple Creek Donkeys. Long before the invention of electric trams, donkeys were used to haul ore carts along the narrow tunnels. Their stamina and compact size allowed them to work long strenuous hours.

Modern mining techniques and declining gold production in the late 1920s put an end to the importance of donkeys in the Cripple Creek District, according to Cripple Creek Donkeys. The organization said that many of the donkeys were turned loose to roam the hillsides surrounding Cripple Creek. These donkeys quickly returned to their wild ways and were rarely seen.