Beverage toting burros take over events

Rist Canyon Inn and the happy bride and groom welcome mini donks Pearl and Paisley from Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros. Courtesy photo

Colorado couple form Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros to cater to party planners

Consider old-timey, hard working gold miners’ burros, or even early-1970s donkey basketball games, passe. It’s now the in-thing to have donkeys serving drinks at wedding receptions and other events.

Called beverage burros (or sometimes beer burros), the mini and micro sizes of these long-eared darlings first began carrying party favors and refreshments at Arizona events. Since 2021, the tiny toters have been available for rent in northern Colorado, too.

As newlyweds, Dani and Alex Alvarez really never intended to own livestock. She grew up in a sports-minded family with coaches, not cowboys, adorning her family tree. He works in real estate. When the couple married in 2014, the closest they initially came to raising critters were their own youngsters — because everyone knows children are high maintenance enough without adding more chores.

But as sometimes tends to happen, kids get “I want” notions, give their parents creative ideas. Soon, Dani especially thought it might be nice to add “a couple small animals” for her toddler offspring to play with, through which to learn about nature, etc. Alex had some horse background; Dani is a former elementary school teacher. Maybe small donkeys would be the ticket, they thought.

Alex and Dani Alvarez and their three youngsters pose for a family portrait at their Farm at Sparrow Hill. Pierre and Penelope, in corral, are two of the eight head of donkeys that comprise the teams of Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros. Courtesy photo


Her initiation into rustic living wasn’t a sprinkling or dip-a-toe-in-the-water baptism… it was full-on immersion. Prior to purchasing ag land, Dani spent 2019 learning all things farm and equine, studying under some highly knowledgeable friends. Then, in the spring of 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic no less, the Alvarez family bought a farm in northwest Fort Collins, Colo., near Overland Trail and Laporte Ave.

It wasn’t exactly a fixer-upper but needed some fine-tuning to better meet their needs and tastes. Once it was upgraded, “The Farm At  Sparrow Hill” first welcomed three Baby Doll sheep, two Nigerian dwarf goats, a cat and dog, and a couple of miniature donkeys.

The two tiny equines were young, imported from Texas, and were intended to grow up with the Alvarez kids (who are now ages 1, 3 and 5). But Alex got to thinking and teased his wife: the goats and sheep were potential breeding stock; the cat was mousing; the dog was guarding; but all that the donkeys were doing was eating, producing waste and not earning their keep. Hmm.

Although the pandemic drove people into seclusion, some fairly safe outdoor contact gradually crept in. That’s when the Alvarez family’s neighbors noticed the small exotic animals collecting at Sparrow Hill and began stopping by to pet the newbie creatures. Often. Very often.

And Dani soon learned about beverage burros. How cool would hers be while earning their keep? Very cool. Enticed by the growing trend, she began training Pierre and Penelope, the original two donks.

In 2021, a bride-to-be sought out Dani and her tiny team for the upcoming nuptials. She and Alvarez agreed to terms. With more advanced training, the donkeys were desensitized for any possible wedding behavioral challenges, and Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros was ‘foaled’.

Rist Canyon Inn and the happy bride and groom welcome mini donks Pearl and Paisley from Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros. Courtesy photo
A beautiful bride thanks donkey Penelope for making her wedding day in Morrison even more special. Penelope was one of the drink servers. Courtesy photo

Word spread and business picked up. The mini donks certainly were earning their keep now. So much so, that the herd size quickly increased; it now totals eight head. At the end of August 2022, minis Pearl and Paisley joined up. Rhoda and Sue, also minis, arrived in February 2023.

Two hairier and even smaller versions, “micro woolies,” stand out among their herdmates due to long shaggy bangs that hang in their faces, bestowing a sort of Highland cattle appearance. Pedro and Pablo are extra-noticeable for their natural coifs and size. Micros stand just 30-inches tall or less at the withers while minute minis “tower” over them at a maximum height of 36-inches.

All sizes have proven to be friendly, highly trainable, tractable, and… so darn cute.

This little girl likes the wedding… but loves donkey Paisley. Courtesy photo


Weddings are the most popular (but not the only) events for beverage burro fans. Colorado’s peak “I Do” season is May through October. Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros provides two donkeys and two handlers per event. They dispense drinks for one to two hours during cocktail hour and occasionally before the ceremony begins.

While the itty-bitty burros haul thirst quenchers to friends and family of the bride and groom, tip-certified human servers distribute alcoholic beverages adhering to each venue’s rules and regulations.

In 2022, its official inaugural year, Sparrow Hill’s burros worked at 30 events, 90 percent of which were weddings.


And then there’s this. This past Palm Sunday, the Alvarez’s burros traded beverage burdens for palm branches. Mill City Church, located at Colorado State University, welcomed congregants of all ages to hear the story of Christ’s victorious entrance into Jerusalem, when he rode “a donkey and her colt” through that town’s streets. (“Let us bray”.)

Pearl and Paisley calmly strut their stuff with fellow-Nativity performers at Life Source Adventist Church in Denver for a 2022 Christmas Program. Courtesy photo

As the story continued, children gleefully waved palm branches and happily laid them down on the ground when the performer portraying Jesus passed by.

In mid-March, a baby shower added more pregnant pizzaz than do most by theming the “ooh and aah” gift bonanza for Harry Potter. Why? Fun.

A “Mommy and Daddy To-Be” special ordered a Harry Potter-themed baby shower for the end of March 2023. Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros Pedro and Pablo, tiny “micro woolies,” accommodate the new parents’ wishes by attending the event wearing their finest tie and shades. Courtesy photo

Also in March, a Fort Collins store called “Sunday Supply Littles & Lifestyle” held a grand opening for its new downtown College Ave. location. The children’s shop had planned for its event to employ two Sparrow Hill’s Beverage Burros for one hour.

The impressive crowd size, however, kept the munchkin minis there for double that time. Wearing diminutive pack saddles, the floral-bedecked leadline donkeys carried store brochures and small gifts for excited and delighted kids.

Mini donks Pearl and Paisley (with their professional equine handlers) provide some adorable window dressing at Sunday Supply’s March 2023 Grand Opening in downtown Fort Collins. Courtesy photo

In early 2023, there’s already been one unicorn-themed celebration, among more ordinary birthday parties. Likely, more very short unicorns with tall ears will be seen serving drinks in northern Colorado this year. At corporate events, promotional handouts are carried for distribution; cold drinks on hot days, etc. Everyone loves the beverage burros. Again, so darn cute.


Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros are scheduled for a Kentucky Derby-themed wedding reception in May. They might be working at the Larimer County Fair. And Christmas nativity scenes for December are already being booked.

Donkeys Pearl and Paisley at the Sunday Supply Littles and Lifestyle Grand Opening in Fort Collins, Colo., make a new friend, Chloe, who strains at her leash for a kiss. Courtesy photo

The Alvarez family is filled with additional creative beverage burro ideas and enthusiasm, although Dani is more hands-on at the business than is Alex.

She advised, “He’s supportive, he loves it and thinks it’s hilarious, but he doesn’t get quite as involved.”

Business is so brisk that neither of the Alvarez’s themselves work at the events. Their three  children are still very young and have lots of age-appropriate activities to busy the whole family. So rather, a crew of equine professionals is hired as burro handlers.

Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros can be reached through their website at . They’re also on Facebook and Instagram at Sparrow Hill Beverage Burros. Or, call (970) 218-6184 for more information or to book events.

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