STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
RIDGWAY – Media ranging from Women’s Wear Daily to the Telluride Daily Planet described the ceremony on Ralph Lauren’s 17,000-acre Ridgway ranch America’s version of a royal wedding.
A few miles from the Ouray County Fairgrounds, David Lauren, 39, prince and heir apparent of the Ralph Lauren fashion empire, was to marry fashion model Lauren Bush, a princess in the Bush political dynasty. Former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are, respectively, her grandfather and uncle.
When Prince William married Kate Middleton in April, it was described as an economic and emotional boost for London with Brits drawing crowds to see the royal couple kiss on a balcony, then drive around Buckingham Palace in a red Aston Martin.
The Bush-Lauren wedding put money in local pockets – local workers built a chapel and baseball diamond for the festivities – but it’s hard to say how much because of the secrecy surrounding the wedding.
“Yes, I can confirm that we are doing the flowers for the wedding, but the owner’s son just told me we can’t say anything more because we signed a confidentiality agreement,” said the clerk at Ridgway’s Willowcreek Floral. “No, you can’t take a photo inside the shop.”
On Friday, a 5-foot-tall toy moose guarded the flower shop’s locked door with a closed sign in the window. Workers were arranging containers of huge orange flowers in a Willowcreek Floral truck parked near the entrance of the ranch that afternoon.
Residents who know Ralph Lauren simply as the nice guy who owns the Double RL Ranch talk freely.
“Those must have been Mexican sunflowers. He loves those. I make six bouquets for him each week when he’s here, and his favorite flowers are red and orange,” said Carol Socorro of Living Springs Farms. “No, I would never send him red roses. He likes flowers that grow naturally in the West. His love for the West isn’t an act.”
Although Ralph Lauren is designing the bridal dress, sources say the wedding will have a Western twist. Country singer Michael Martin Murphey will provide some of the music. And Lauren bought 100 rodeo tickets at $8 each for his wedding guests to see the bucking broncos and steer scrambles on Labor Day. They will sit in the weather-beaten grandstand bleachers under a metal awning, Ouray Fairgrounds manager Susan Long said.
“We don’t have box seats, but we’ll hang a rope around their seats so they’re all together. Mr. Lauren hired vans to transport them from the ranch to the fairgrounds,” Long said. “He and his wife, Ricky, come to the rodeo every year.”
California rancher Mark Harvey will be risking his life in front of those wedding guests and other attendees taming a huge and angry steer.
Is a belt buckle, ribbon or trophy worth the danger?
“Yes, because everyone can’t do it,” Harvey said. “If everyone could do it, then it wouldn’t be a test that’s worth taking.”
He had no idea the wedding party would be in the stands. He seems far more honored that another crowned head will be honoring him.
“In the opening ceremonies, the rodeo queen will ride my horse, Sparky T,” he said.
A Telluride town official offered the tip that Butcher and Baker would be catering the wedding. The shop was closed Friday afternoon. The streets were jam-packed with crowds interested in a different sort of American royalty – film stars. A group of young women carefully plotted how to catch George Clooney’s eye when he attended a Telluride Film Festival tribute.
Ivanka Trump (Donald’s daughter) tweeted to her fans that she is attending the Bush-Lauren wedding. Lauren Bush’s mother will be accompanied by a Yugoslavian prince, according to the New York Post. George H.W. and Barbara Bush declined because they were worried the high altitude would be hard on their health.
Durango-La Plata County Airport manager Ron Dent was told wedding guests would be coming through Montrose Regional Airport.
“If George W. Bush comes through, there will be Secret Service, but it’s not as big a deal as dealing with a sitting president or vice president,” Dent said. “When Dan Quayle was vice president, he came to Durango, and we had to close our air space to all other planes. They’ll just back Bush’s plane up to a hangar, and no one will see him or any of these other celebrities as they get off their jets.”
The guests who won’t be at the ranch reportedly will be staying at Lumiere, Hotel Madeline and The Peaks, where they can choose to indulge in treats such as a killer workout followed by a sugar or salt body scrub or getting a foot massage while snacking on coffee and muffins.
On Saturday, Ouray and Ridgway residents seemed oblivious to the wedding but excited about an upcoming fish fry, visiting bikers, the rodeo and 12-year-old Ara Norwood, whose steer won a 4-H championship prize. She is as pretty as a princess, but her mind is focused on a genetics project that will win her a scholarship, not Prince Charming.
When Ridgway residents try to remember the closest thing to a royal procession they enjoyed, they mention Max Schuetz, a 7-year-old who has battled leukemia for five years. While undergoing treatment in Denver, he ran a race to raise money for cancer research, the only runner who wore a mask to protect him from infection. When he returned to Ridgway last month, the town threw him a surprise parade. Max swapped his cowboy hat for a cardboard-and-glitter crown and rode in the fire truck, waving to the crowd.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons Ralph Lauren loves the Western tradition that values boldness and self-reliance. When it comes to American royalty, Westerners always have a mind of their own.