STERLING, Colo. (CBS4)– If you grew up in Colorado, you probably remember riding them: the King Soopers penny horses. If you didn’t get to ride them before the COVID-19 pandemic, you may not get to again.
Eddie Bennett says that even though these horses are made of fiberglass, they are still part of Colorado’s Western heritage, “They’ve been a part of so many people’s lives for so many generations.”
It’s the family business which started with his Grandpa Stanley back in 1947.
“He had a handshake agreement with King Lloyd to put a few horses in his stores,” said Bennett.
A few turned into more than 100 across the Front Range and one in Wyoming. King Soopers leased the machines and kept the pennies while the Bennetts fixed and replaced the horses when they broke or got old. The business was passed down from Stanley to his son then finally to Eddie. For 73 years, kids got a 90-second ride for only a penny. That is until recently.
King Soopers told Eddie to come round up his team. They didn’t want the ponies in stores anymore.
“The reason was partially COVID-19 and partially just a management decision,” said Bennett.
Now 70 of the 120 ponies sit in Bennett’s workshop in Sterling. They still have a few more to pick up. He hates to see the tradition and his business come to an end but he is glad he could make so many people smile.
“We knew that the kids really enjoyed the horses when we go in and fix them, but the outpouring of emails and text messages and phone calls of people who are sad to see them go, it’s really overwhelming,” said Bennett.
He is also grateful King Soopers gave his family the opportunity to bring joy to so many Coloradans, “We appreciate them allowing our horses to be featured in their stores for all these years.”
Bennett is trying to find a new home for the horses, but if they can’t find one then they’re going to have to end up selling them. They aren’t quite ready to sell them just yet though.