(CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo.) — Donkey Derby Days has been celebrated in Cripple Creek for the past 91 years. The event is put on in the summer, attracting visitors from all ages and locations, and brings a boom in sales to local businesses.

“That draw really does help our city and our businesses, because if you’re going to stop in and buy an ice cream that supports the local business, that supports the city, that supports everybody, and these businesses can remain open because they get it supported,” City of Cripple Creek Destination Marketing Coordinator, Klaryssa Murray said. “And they know they’re going to get a big boost from Donkey Derby Days, which is something good that they can rely on to help continue their business and future years.”

Donkey Derby Days is an event Murray recalled attending as a child.

“So I did actually grow up in Cripple Creek and went to Donkey Derby Days,” Murray said. “Every single year ever since I was a kid. It’s always been a super fun event. I know kids will look forward to it, I would look forward to it.”

One of the donkeys featured during Donkey Derby Day. Courtesy Ray Harless.

The festival celebrates the town’s heritage and brings together young and old.

“The Donkey Derby Day Festival is a wonderful celebration,” Co-Chair of Donkey Derby Days, Annie Valades, said. “Everything, a parade, donkey, races of floats, historic reenactments, food trucks, concerts. I mean, it is just, it’s just a blast from sun-up to sun-down.”

In years past, the city was able to help financially support the event, but this year things are different after coming out of the pandemic.

“So it’s been very difficult since COVID happened. I mean, the city’s working hard to do what we can to keep continuing supporting these events,” Murray said. “In the past, we’ve actually been able to help support Donkey Derby Days financially, and that’s unfortunately just not an option because of how much COVID impacted us.”

The city’s revenue was impacted as casinos closed during the pandemic and less visitors made the trip up to Cripple Creek.

“Well, COVID had a really unfortunate impact on our city,” Murray said. “We lost so much revenue, it projected it’ll probably take the next 5 to 10 years to recover what we lost.”

A statement was provided from the City on the economic impact of Donkey Derby Days:

“Donkey Derby Days has a great influence on the City of Cripple Creek. It has a great economic impact on us and the local businesses in town. Donkey Derby Days is also a fantastic way to get the community together after COVID halted so many events that allowed the community to gather together.”

City Clerk Malissa Gish

The Two Mile High Club cares for the city’s donkeys and they are determined to have Donkey Derby Days this year, even without the support of the city.

“The money went away,” President of Two Mile High Club, Curt Sorenson, said. “We’re raising the money, we’re going to do the event. We’re going to help the community one way or another.”

Two Mile High Club volunteers fed the donkeys on Thursday afternoon.

The Two Mile High Club came into existence in 1931 and has since served Cripple Creek to keep their furry friends healthy and safe. 

“It’s our mission to take care of them,” Sorenson said. “Now, as far as funding, it’s not our mission to put on an event, our mission is to take care of donkeys. So we’re asking for help to put on the event. The city always used to do that, but with the shortfall of funding following COVID, the city has opted out of funding events.”

You can help support the Two Mile High Club online through donations and t-shirt sales.

“We have a donation button on our website so you can donate directly for Donkey Derby Days or you can make a donation to the Two Mile High Club for the general care of the donkeys,” Sorenson said. “It really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference one way or another. But we are in the process of raising funds specific to putting on the event.”

For businesses wishing to support Donkey Derby Days, Valades said they are looking for sponsors.

“My area of focus is sponsorship,” Valades said. “The donations are absolutely wonderful. If we can get sponsors, we have levels from $500 up to $10,000. That’s my area that I’m really pushing because there are people that don’t mind doing that and I believe in giving back to those sponsors and giving them the credit that they deserve.”

Cripple Creek donkeys were outside in the sun on Thursday afternoon.

The Two Mile High Club is determined to keep the beloved event on the streets of Cripple Creek for many years to come.

“People love it, it’s our event,” Valades said. “You know, each city kind of has their own event and the donkeys are known to be Cripple Creek donkeys and the people love them.”