The story of the Flying W Ranch is one of invention, loss, and rebirth. In 1947 Don Wilson purchased thousands of acres of ranchland in northeastern Colorado Springs. Wilson’s daughter and son-in law, Marian and Russ Wolfe, moved to Colorado to help with work on the ranch. Russ started hosting trail rides at the ranch and Marian would cook dinner for the participants. Marian and Russ began discussing the idea of hosting chuckwagon suppers and an Old West stage show. They began the Flying W Chuckwagon Suppers and Original Western Stage Show in 1953 with 11 customers their first night and 7 the second. Open two nights a week, over the course of that summer they served 1,650 people. Ten years later they were open year-round, seven days a week, serving 125,000 guests a year.
The Wolfes would continually add to the entertainment and attractions at the ranch, continually increasing its’ popularity and appeal. They built a large western village on the ranch, containing a jail, schoolhouse, kiva, and library. Eventually they opened a steakhouse to serve meals in the winter. Crowds didn’t just come for the food and attractions but also for the top-class entertainment. They would host celebrity performers such as famous country band Sons of Pioneers, and Roy Rogers’ side-kick Pat Brady. The Ranch’s also created their own home-grown Cowboy singing group, The Flying W Wranglers. They have performed at the ranch for over 30 years and boast about being the world’s second oldest western performance band in the world.
The Flying W Ranch changed forever with the devastating Waldo Canyon fire in 2012. Everything but the library in the western village, which housed the late Marian’s extensive cookbook collection, burnt down. Floods followed in 2013 further devastating the Ranch. There is hope that the Flying W Ranch will be able to return. In 2019 there was a groundbreaking ceremony led by Leigh Ann Wolfe, Russ and Marian’s daughter, to inaugurate the new Flying W Ranch. The other major change brought about by the fire was the creation of The Flying W Ranch Foundation. The non-profit focuses on repairing the natural landscape by through reforestation and erosion mitigation efforts. The Flying W Ranch has been, and will be again, a monument to the Old West life of the region.
Generously Submitted by Patrick Lee, CSPM Museum Technician