It's that time of the year again when the air fills with the aroma of pancakes, sausage and eggs in downtown Longmont with the annual Chuckwagon Breakfast. Hosted by the Longmont Twin Peaks Rotary, the breakfast is returning for another year on Saturday.
The event, which runs from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Fourth Avenue and Kimbark Street, serves as a grand welcome to the Boulder County Fair Parade and is also the Rotary's largest fundraiser of the year. This early morning affair is not just about breakfast, it's a tradition steeped in the spirit of community and generosity. Under the Rotary Club, the Chuckwagon Breakfast has been going strong for over 25 years.
But the Chuckwagon Breakfast wasn’t started by Rotarians and has a history in Longmont that goes back all the way to 1947. The tradition of the Chuckwagon Breakfast was actually started by the Junior Chamber, also known as the Jaycees, in Longmont after World War II. However, as years went by, in the 80s the membership in the Jaycees started dwindling, leading to uncertainty about the future of the breakfast.
Dave Chrisman, Geoff Howe (of Howe Mortuary) and a few other Rotary Club members recognized the cultural significance of the event, and not wanting to see it fade away, decided to take action. Armed with a passion for preserving local tradition and community spirit they decided to keep the breakfast alive. The torch was passed, but not without some vital learning first.
"The Jaycees were gracious in teaching us the ropes," Chrisman said, who still volunteers every year at the breakfast. "They showed us everything, from how to set up the chuckwagon to the best ways to serve the breakfast crowd efficiently."
The old chuckwagon, while rich in history, was unfortunately also rich in years. It had been constructed many years prior and was showing signs of severe wear and tear because it sat outside all year exposed to the elements. This wagon had been serving the community at countless breakfast events throughout its service.
"The chuckwagon was in pretty rough shape when we got it," Chrisman recalled. "But it was an important symbol of the breakfast tradition, so we knew we had to restore it."
The challenge, however, was not simply to repair it. The Rotary Club decided to go one step further. They aimed to rebuild the chuckwagon entirely, enhancing its functionality while preserving its historical essence. A team of volunteers from the Rotary Club, together with local craftsmen and artisans, came together for this ambitious project.
Painstakingly, the team worked to deconstruct the original, noting down every minute detail, from the arrangement of serving counters to the positioning of the storage areas. Each piece of wood, each metal bracket was carefully evaluated, its purpose understood, and then either restored or replaced. The only pieces they couldn’t afford to replace were the wagon wheels. Rebuilding the chuckwagon was not just a restoration project, but a labor of love.
"As a little boy, I remember that kids were all invited to climb up into that chuckwagon. It was surrounded with bales of hay so the kids could crawl up in and mess around in the box and all that. The Jaycees used to encourage it," Chrisman said, reflecting on his childhood experience.
For many, the chuckwagon can be seen as the embodiment of Longmont's resilient spirit, the Jaycees' legacy and the Rotary Club's dedication to their community, serving as a heartwarming reminder of the collaborative journey that saved a beloved tradition. The relationship between the Rotary Club and the chuckwagon is somewhat bittersweet. The wagon, while no longer in use, stands as a symbol of the event's history down at Old Mill Park.
"Although we don't use it anymore, it's hard to consider investing in a new chuckwagon. Every penny we raise is dedicated to helping our local students," Chrisman said.
Today, more than 30 volunteers contribute their time and energy to ensure the event's success every year. Together, they laugh, dance, flip pancakes and stir eggs, creating a vibrant and warm atmosphere that only adds to the flavor of the food.
The cost for the breakfast is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Tickets can be purchased on the morning of the event, or pre-purchased at their website. All funds raised through this event go towards scholarships for graduating seniors from SVVSD.