Eight-year-old Jake Avalos could not wait to dig into his pancakes on Saturday, as he and his mother waited in line Saturday morning at the Beef Empire Days Chuckwagons Breakfast in Stevens Park, the first event of the busiest day in the week-long 50th anniversary celebration of the cattle industry. 

Patrons were waiting for the chance to catch a flap jack that was flipped and flung to them by Chris Cakes of Louisburg.

Jake watched the others in front of him as they each caught the breakfast treat. He said he wasn't sure if he had his own strategy to catch a pancake but knew he just wanted to catch them and eat.

"... I just love pancakes... with lots of syrup," he said with a grin on his face as he began eating.

It was her son's love for pancakes that's brought Avalos' mother, Dorina, to the event.

"Like he said, he loves them. When we're at home and I ask him what he wants for breakfast, it's always pancakes," she said with a laugh. "I think he liked watching them being flipped to people, too. Hopefully, I don't have to start serving them like that at home." 

The all-you-can-eat breakfast for $3 a plate included pancakes, sausage, and a beverage. All proceeds went to the Women of Purpose fund, established in 2009 by the Western Kansas Community Foundation to support local programs focused on women's needs.

The Chuckwagons Breakfast was just one of several Beef Empire Days events on tap Saturday. 

Following the breakfast, the American State Bank Beef Empire Days Parade with a theme of “BEEF, 50 years strong!” headed up Main Street in downtown Garden City.

Hundreds of spectators lined up Main Street for one of Beef Empire Days' staple events, where 100-plus entries were expected, including local emergency first responders, floats sponsored by various local businesses, a herd of souped up antique Volkswagon Beetles, and more.

Harold J. Tuma served as this year’s parade marshall. Tuma, who served as the judge for the first Beef Empire Days Carcass Show, was a member of the Kansas State University livestock judging team, where he won major contests at Denver National Western and Kansas City American Royal. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from K-State, as well as a PhD from Oklahoma State University, Tuma's career from 1961 to 1986 included teaching at K-State and South Dakota University, and he was the dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming.

During his time as a professor of animal science at K-State, Tuma was involved in research to improve measures to more accurately evaluate carcass.

When the final parade entry completed the route down Main Street, parade-goers flocked to the west green of Lee Richardson Zoo for the Chuckwagons in the Zoo event.

People by the hundreds lined up to purchase an old-fashioned barbecue meal for just $1. Plates included beef and all the fixings.

Troy Hendricks was one of the hundreds of hungry people who attended the event.

“I saw the sign a few days ago advertising this, so I thought I’d come check it out,” Hendricks, who is in Garden City for the next two months on business, said while waiting in line. “There’s a lot of people here, so the food must be good.”

Hendricks, who is from Montana, said where he is from, there is not an event or festival like Beef Empire Days, which is another reason he wanted to check out the event.

“I’ve been in town for the last month, and all I’ve been hearing about is Beef Empire Days,” he said. “By the number of people here, I think it shows that a festival like this is appreciated by the community. Garden City seems like the unofficial beef capital, so it seems fitting to celebrate it for a whole week.”

Alyssa Hernandez, another Chuckwagons attendee, and her friends took to the shade of nearby trees to eat their meal, which was a common sight as temperatures climbed to the mid-90s.

“I’ve been coming to Beef Empire Days events for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and don’t remember not coming. It’s just fun.”

Hernandez said she remembers when the Chuckwagons event was held at Stevens Park, but she likes the new location better.

“It’s not as crowded,” she said. “I like it here because it’s more spaced out… The food is good, too.”

According to Beef Empire Days officials, approximately 2,000 people attended the Chuckwagons event.

The heavy slate of Beef Empire Days events concluded with the Beef, Beer and Boots - Dancing in the Park late Saturday afternoon and into the evening at Stevens Park.

The event included a classic street dance, food truck vendors, a beer garden and live music.

Food truck operators who participated in the event had the chance to enter a beef dish into a contest, which was judged, and the winner was named the Beef Empire Days 2018 Food Truck Vendor of the Year. The name of the winner was not available as of press time.

A drawing for a 2018 GMC Sierra SLT truck, along with other drawings, were planned during the Beef, Beer and Boots event. The name of the winner also was not available as of press time.

Twin Country, a country music group, reunited for the first time in nearly 20 years to perform at the Beef, Beer and Boots event.

“What is so awesome about it is they used to play at the street dances. They played at Beef Empire Days for years,” Stacey Carr, Beef Empire Days executive director, said in a previous interview. “They played all over southwest Kansas and farther on, but were very well-known in this part of the state... It’s just really cool to have them come back and reunite and do this for the 50th.”

The 50th year of Beef Empire Days concludes on Sunday with the Beef Empire Days 4-person Golf Scramble at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, as well as the Beef Empire Days Cattle Crawl, where participants will make stops at various restaurants in Garden City to try different beef dishes.

 

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.