Cowboy poet, beloved community member & rancher Donnie Wynkoop leads Fruita Fall Festival as Grand Marshal
By Donnie Wynkoop
(Wynkoop mentioned that this poem epitomized a way of life he considers familiar and fun.)
I shook his hand and felt the sand
that made that cowboy tough.
His grip was long, sincere and strong,
hard calloused, lean and rough.
And though those hands were up in age,
three decades past their prime,
I’m betting they’d work circles,
‘round those youngsters any time.
Now those hands they spoke of branding cows,
and fixing fence and such,
and hours spent shoveling horse stalls,
although anytime’s too much.
But they also spoke of tender things,
that didn’t really show.
Like rubbing down a newborn calf,
that came in last spring’s snow.
And gnarled and veined, tobacco stained,
red freckled from the sun.
Digging deep to find a dollar,
if he knew you needed one.
I kinda felt the cards now dealt,
were probably his last hand.
Though frail and old, he would not fold,
He thought the game was grand!
Then the realization hit me,
at the truth I’d stumbled on.
Life’s eight second bell had sounded,
But the cowboy still hung on.
Oh ancient mirror of myself,
I share your feelings though,
We’ve thrown our loop ‘round a way of life,
and it’s hard to let it go.
Editor’s note: Who We Are is a regular series featuring men and women who embody the unique spirit of the Grand Valley. To nominate someone to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fruita Fall Festival’s honorary Grand Marshal Donnie Wynkoop deeply loves his hometown and the people who live there.
And after spending nearly all of his 62 years in the Grand Valley — “I’m old as dirt,” he joked — Wynkoop said his focus and joy is spent serving the community, which he considers his big extended family.
Wynkoop has also worked for Fruita’s City Market as its store manager since 1984.
“For 29 years, I’ve managed this store,” he said. “City Market — they want their employees to not just be part of the community, but be a pillar of the community; to invest time, finances and heart. I’m a firm believer in that, and that’s why I’ve stayed here so long. I don’t want to retire because it’s fun.”
Managing Fruita’s City Market isn’t just about selling food, Wynkoop added.
“It’s a social mecca for young and old. It’s a meeting place, especially in a smaller town like Fruita. And it’s our obligation to help the helpless, to see the need and be there.”
Wynkoop takes that job very seriously and believes strongly in service, whether it’s helping the elderly carry groceries or donating food to Agape Food Bank, Catholic Outreach and more.
“We do a lot at City Market,” he noted. “It’s not just me.”
According to Fruita Chamber spokeswoman Robbie Urquhart, that service mentality and sensibility of giving was the reason Wynkoop was chosen as the 2013 Fruita Fall Festival Grand Marshal.
“The Grand Marshal is an honorary, distinguished position because the community chooses him,” Urquhart said. “Donnie was chosen because he gives a lot to the community, through food donations and help to people in need. He’s also very well known for his cowboy poetry.”
When Wynkoop isn’t working at City Market, the longtime Fruita resident can be found on his jointly-owned, 100-acre farm in Loma.
“My heart is being a rancher and a farmer. I’ve got horses and cows.”
And he spends lots of time with his family — his wife of 39 years, Lavonne; two children, Melissa and Matthew; son-in-law Erit Schaneman; and his five grandkids.
Or he’s writing poetry about ranching, cowboys and life — “to make you laugh and cry, and to paint a picture of your soul,” which he’s published and performed over the years.
“I have no spare time; I will never earn the best yard award,” Wynkoop joked. “There’s no time to die. I’ve got too much to do.”
Besides leading the Fruita Fall Festival parade Saturday morning (he hopes with his grandchildren), Wynkoop expects to be enjoying this annual “celebration of life” all weekend with his family and friends, including “a bunch of cousins, in-laws and outlaws.”
“I’ve been going to Fall Fest ever since I was a kid. It’s fun. There are different venues down there. There are contests. It’s for all ages.”
And when asked how he felt about being this year’s Grand Marshal, Wynkoop said: “I feel honored and undeserving.”
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Citing employee safety and cost effectiveness, the city will soon relocate the five departments currently housed in its Municipal Operations Center (MOC).