Small town races, tradition, community
Grand County, CO Colorado
For more than 60 years western enthusiasts have been coming to Grand Lake to experience Buffalo Barbecue. The event is two full days of adventures for every age including parades, music, running, and food.
The 5K run has been going on for 20 years. This week I talked to Dave Kafer of Grand Lake who has run the race “at least eight times.” He also designed the original course.
The course stayed the same until a few years ago when a committee decided the finish should end at the beach instead of behind the library.
“I re-measured the course and now it does end at the lower parking lot at Lakeside Park,” says Dave.
The course is paved and dirt, and the elevation is 8,349 feet. Dave says it is an official course, measuring exactly 3.16 miles. Dave ran the 5K race for the first time in 1996, stopped running for a bit, and started up again about five years ago.
“This year I’m thinking of running it again. If I can come within 15 minutes of my old time, I’d be happy,” he says.
His best time is 22:30. His wife runs the race too: “We may just run it together this year.”
At 72, Dave has been running for 35 years and has finished 15 marathons including one in Paris in 2000.
“Paris was a very good and the wine was great; it was a very good year,” Dave says.
He says there have been some fast times at this race and at one time the course record was held by former NCAA runner Dylan Olchin who began running while attending Middle Park High School and CSU.
“I remember watching Dylan run this race in the late ’90s knowing he would go far and he did.”
“This race has runners from all over the state including vacationers who plan their vacation around it,” Dave says. “At one point there were 300 runners. Some high school teams bring their team up for a fun run at elevation. It’s a good time, and a tough course.”
Dave will be out marking the course on Friday afternoon, July 15, with arrows, chalk on the road, orange cones, and sticks with arrow at eye level so no one can get lost.
Another Grand Lake local who runs the Buffalo BBQ 5K every year is Lemmon Lodge manager Garrett Milbrett. He has worked at Lemmon Lodge for nine years and every year invites his former college roommates who live all across the country to Grand Lake for the annual run.
On Saturday he will be running with three employees and five friends who he college track with in South Dakota.
“My friends bring their significant others and we all run race,” Says Garrett. “Some years they stay at Lemmon Lodge for a long weekend and some stay for the week. We all ran track and cross county at Augustana College and stayed in touch over the years. I brought some of them here to work for a summer; some turned into year round employees.”
One way to entice his friends back each year is to make fun bets about who will win and have the best race time.
“Since the race is right here we always do it; every year. Some train for it, some harder than others. It gets pretty competitive since we all want to beat each other.”
The Annual Western Weekend and Buffalo BBQ celebrates western traditions and Grand Lake’s cowboy and pioneering heritage. I love the tradition and how this small town event attracts runners and music lovers from all over the state.
Anyone can register Saturday morning. The race starts at 8:30 a.m.
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West Grand seniors Rene Dominguez, right, and Angel Dominguez pass the baton during one of the nighttime relays at the 2021 Joe Shields Invitational at WGHS.