Flying W Ranch is turning into a winter wonderland.
And the Flying W Wranglers are turning into a Christmas band. Or, more accurately, a cowboy Christmas band.
Flying W’s season of Christmas concerts kicks off Friday and each one will be with a smaller crowd than ever in the ranch’s nearly 70-year history. But the tradition continues amid COVID-19 restrictions that will limit the audience to 75 people inside the open-air dining hall and event center. It’s considered an open-air facility because it has several garage-style doors that open up. The new multimillion dollar facility can hold 850 people.
This summer was set to be a triumphant time for Flying W, a Colorado Springs staple since 1953. After being ravaged by the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, the ranch’s long-awaited reopening in July was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
While capacities were limited because of COVID-19 restrictions, ranch owner Leigh Ann Wolfe counts the summer season of chuck-wagon dinners and concerts as a success. Plus, she said the season went on “without a single COVID incident.”
“Even though our numbers were low for the Flying W, people were so happy to be there,” Wolfe said. “People were truly blessed by it.”
There was something else that made Flying W’s return stand out. The stars of the show — the Flying W Wranglers — were brand-new to the band.
That includes the group’s first-ever woman, Cassy Weil.
“I think there were a lot of people who were skeptical, since we were all new,” she said.
From her perspective on stage, the band put the skeptics at ease.
“I think everybody was blown away,” Weil said. “We kept the tradition alive for the ranch.”
“By the end of the summer, the show was spellbinding, literally,” Wolfe added.
Weil also thinks the concerts were a welcome escape for attendees.
“People were ready after months of lockdown to get out and do something,” she said. “And we were able to provide that.”
Christmas at the Ranch shows, which are scheduled for weekend nights through Dec. 20, will provide another version of that.
Each concert will feature a mix of Christmas classics and cowboy and country songs, such as George Strait’s “Christmas Cookies.” Some are original tunes written by members of the band.
“We’re trying to keep the Western spirit, as well as the Christmas spirit,” Weil said. “This gives people the best of both worlds.”
Personally, it’s a mix of two of her favorites. Weil says she could easily listen to Christmas music all year long.
“I don’t know what it is about Christmas music,” she said. “It brings those feelings of joy and happiness and warmth and family and friends. It pulls at our heart strings.”
“One song can bring back so many memories,” she added. “I think that’s what so special about it.”