DENVER (KDVR) — It is a story that is old but not forgotten. The Buffalo Soldiers were freed slaves who helped build the American West. A nonprofit Colorado-based performance troupe dedicated to telling their story is struggling due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Show cancellations are affecting donations used to feed their horses, which are crucial to the educational performance.
FOX31 spoke with Fred Applewhite, who portrays a first sergeant, and Scott Johns, who performs as first lieutenant.
Both are real-life Army veterans and former Denver school system administrators.
Applewhite, a retired high school principal and athletic director, says he became inspired to become a performer years ago when he saw a reenactment in a parade.
“I get emotional when I think about it. I said, ‘who are those guys?’ and found out they were Buffalo Soldiers. I’ve never heard of them and I’m an educator!” he said.
Johns explains that all performers make it their mission to share a story rooted in a history shared by all.
“We demonstrate some of the mounted shooting, saber technique, some of the formations and drills,” he said.
Unfortunately, shows scheduled across the western states are now canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, affecting donations used to take care of the horses.
The organization needs $6,000 per season for grain and hay along with vet and farrier fees.
“The clothing and equipment, we all pay for out-of-pocket, we’re just looking for help to make sure the horses are taken care of,” Johns says,
Johns is hopeful the troupe will ride throughout the West again.
“We can all meet again and gather and celebrate the traditions of the Buffalo Soldiers,” he said.
Applewhite says his commitment to sharing the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers will continue well into the future and adds that their mission is “to make sure these men who gave so much and got so little in return, that their story is not forgotten.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help feed and care for the horses.