Archive for June, 2017

postheadericon Tuffy picks up slack for patients

The Cattlemen's Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign purchased a 2016 RAM 1500 pickup to help local breast cancer patients make doctors appointments and receive treatments.

The Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign purchased a 2016 RAM 1500 pickup to help local breast cancer patients make doctors appointments and receive treatments.

GUNNISON, Colo. – As a RAM 1500 pickup, “Tuffy is rugged and durable.

But that’s not why it has the moniker. Tuffy is the Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink’s transportation truck that was bought to help breast cancer patients get to their out-of-town medical appointments safely and comfortably.

In the Gunnison valley, it usually means there are mountain passes to navigate.

“We purchased Tuffy last fall because we saw a need in our community,” said Heidi Sherratt Bogart, executive director of Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink. “Because we have patients who need to travel to their appointments and treatments, we wanted them to be able to have a dependable vehicle to make the trips.

“It’s because of our community and the generosity of the people here that we’re able to do that. Tuffy helps relieve some of the stress that comes with being a breast cancer patient.”

Patients agree.

“I was very shaken up about getting diagnosed with breast cancer at 74,” said Loline Sammons, who utilized Tuffy multiple times a week for six weeks while undergoing radiation treatment in Montrose. “Tough Enough to Wear Pink did other things for us, too, but the pickup was really crucial.”

Most often, Sammons’ daughter, Michelle Lehmann, drove her mom to the treatments. The 112-mile round trips were made more comfortable because of the new pickup, but there was much more to it. There was peace of mind.

“Working with people who you can turn to when you need help for what you’re going through … you just can’t explain it to anyone else,” Sammons said. “They have been absolutely wonderful. Heidi is an absolute doll, and I can’t tell you what a blessing Tough Enough to Wear Pink is. They raise so much money every year, and it helps so many people.”

She was diagnosed in mid-February and was in surgery on Feb. 28. She continues to have a strong outlook, thanks in large part to a sense of humor that has lasted through so many radiation treatments. It’s an enduring spirit that is so vital to the oftentimes overwhelming battle with breast cancer.

“My grandson who is going to college down in Texas called someone at Tough Enough to Wear Pink that got the process started for me,” she said. “I’m so thankful that he did.”

Stephanie Shrieves is also thankful for Tough Enough to Wear Pink and Tuffy. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in May 2016, a few months before the pickup was purchased. Still, she’s found use for it.

“I had my surgeries at Rose Medical Center in Denver,” Shrieves said. “I’ve had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

“The truck has been so awesome for us. We’ve used it to go back and forth to Denver to make all my appointments. I had three surgeries, and after each surgery, I was allowed to come back to Gunnison, but I had to go back once a week for regular appointments.”

Having a brand-new pickup helps make that 400-mile round trip over multiple mountain passes that much easier.

“There were no real worries about whether I’d break down,” she said. “It gives people options to have whatever treatment they choose to do. Living in Gunnison right now, we don’t have a lot of those options. The pickup also gives a little piece of mind knowing there is a good, sound vehicle to get you to your appointments and treatments.”

But the local Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign did so much more for Shrieves and her family.

“There are integrative therapies available, where people can get massages and other things,” she said. “I think having the truck is one less thing to stress about. Tough Enough to Wear Pink was able to give to me and my family during my first surgery, and that was huge. That took a lot of the stress away. It allows you to focus on the treatments and getting better instead of how you’re going to take care of expenses and other things.

“All the people who are involved in Tough Enough to Wear Pink are very passionate about the program, making it successful and taking care of patients who are going through different treatments of cancer. It’s nice to have people fighting in my corner.”

postheadericon Carr, Eagle make for great rodeo

Jacobs Crawley rides Pete Carr's Big Tex to the 2015 world championship. Big Tex is one of many top-level Carr animals that will be part of the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

Jacobs Crawley rides Pete Carr’s Big Tex to the 2015 world championship. Big Tex is one of many top-level Carr animals that will be part of the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

EAGLE, Colo. – The cool mountain air that surrounds this picturesque community serves as a refreshing outlook for some of the greatest athletes in rodeo.

That includes the animals that are part of the exciting Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19-Saturday, July 22, at Johnette Phillips Arena on the Eagle County Fairgrounds. Nothing says that better than the bucking athletes from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.

Over the years, world records have been established in Eagle. Scores are typically higher because the animals perform so well here. But there’s more than that that goes into producing a world-class event, and that’s where the seasoned Carr crew comes in.

“We love having Pete here, and we’ve been really happy to have the best stock in the world at our rodeo,” said Hanna Albertson, chairwoman of the fair and rodeo’s advisory council. “We know what Pete’s going to bring each year, and it’s the best of the best.”

No other stock contractor in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association has had more animals selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the last four years. All of them have bucked at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, and they’ve made their mark.

But so has the hard-working Carr crew that makes everything happen.

“I feel very honored that we have such a world-renowned stock contractor in Eagle,” Fair Manager Tanya Dahlseid said. “He’s been a great help to us every year. I firmly believe he’s made this event very spectacular.”

Spectacular comes in the frame of amazing animal athletes in action inside Johnette Phillips Arena. Eight years ago, Washington cowboy Ryan Gray tied a PRCA record with a 94-point ride. The past two years, bareback riders have won this rodeo on Carr’s great MGM Dirty Jacket.

In 2015, Richmond Champion scored 90 points on MGM Dirty Jacket to win the title. A year ago, Coloradoan Joel Schlagel earned the championship with an 89-point ride on the two-time PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year.

“There’s literally not another horse like him,” Champion said two seasons ago.

Actually, there are, and Carr has a bunch of them. Over the years, three other Carr horses have earned Bareback of the Year titles: Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night. More importantly, there are dozens of other top-caliber animals that will be part of the mix in Eagle.

“During the week of our rodeo, Pete and his crew come in and take over in a good way,” Albertson said. “He gets things to where everyone wants it. It’s extremely helpful, and I think that’s one of the reasons we have such a successful rodeo.”

postheadericon Rooftop changes start time

Bareback rider Tanner Phipps rides during the 2016 Rooftop Rodeo, which will begin at 7 p.m. this year.

Bareback rider Tanner Phipps rides during the 2016 Rooftop Rodeo, which will begin at 7 p.m. this year.

Rodeo will begin sooner, with gates opening at 5 p.m., ProRodeo starting at 7 p.m.

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Everyone’s time is valuable, and the organizers of Rooftop Rodeo understand that as well as anyone.

It’s the reason the six performances of the rodeo will move up half an hour to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 5-Monday, July 10, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park.

“We’ve started the rodeo at that time forever,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo.

“We have decided to change because of our changing demographics and because we’ll have better lighting. Families want to be done earlier so they can get their kids home sooner.”

That mindset is working wonders for anyone who wants to enjoy a world-class competition mixed with family-friendly entertainment.

“Rooftop Rodeo has a very proud history of having a great crowd every night,” said Ben Vigil, president of Western Heritage. “Our fans really get into the rodeo and the fun that comes with it, and we have looked closely at this over the years.

“With so many tourists having so many things going on, we wanted to make sure they can enjoy the daytime activities that we have around here and still enjoy a great rodeo. We also want to make it easier on the locals that come to our rodeo.”

The rodeo offers a full evening of entertainment. Each two-hour performance will feature athletic cowboys and cowgirls competing on equally athletic animals. Fast horses and wild rides are just pieces to the puzzle that comes with Estes Park’s rodeo.

“The key to a good rodeo is to have great rides and fast times, but it should be fun and entertaining to the fans,” said Purdy, noting that the gates open and the behind-the-chutes tours start at 5 p.m.; mutton busting will begin at 5:30 p.m.; and the Rodeo Evening Kickoff Show kicks off at 6:30 p.m. – the tours are available to those who specifically purchase Behind The Chutes tickets. “We’ve got a great stock contractor in the Cervi family, and we believe we have one of the best rodeos in the country.

“We have had great support from this community over the years, and we want it to be a two-way street. We want the community and the tourists to equally enjoy the rodeo we bring to town every July.”

That takes a great deal of work to make it happen, and dozens of volunteers put in the man hours each year to make Rooftop Rodeo so grand. Over the last two decades, the event has been recognized as one of the best in the country.

“We want the fans and the contestants alike to love Rooftop Rodeo,” Vigil said. “We want the cowboys and cowgirls to come to town, enjoy everything that Estes Park has to offer and say that we are one of their favorite rodeos every year.

“I can’t say enough about everyone who makes this thing happen. The volunteers are some of the most dedicated people I know, ant their work is greatly appreciated. The cowboys and fans don’t always see all the work that goes into it, but I know they appreciate it, too.”

postheadericon BFO beginning rodeo run

Dusty Tuckness of Meeteetse, Wyo., will try to repeat his Cody (Wyo.) Stampede Bullfighters Only title this Friday. Tuckness won his first BFO title last year in Cody and now leads the 2017 Pendleton Whisky World Standings. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Dusty Tuckness of Meeteetse, Wyo., will try to repeat his Cody (Wyo.) Stampede Bullfighters Only title this Friday. Tuckness won his first BFO title last year in Cody and now leads the 2017 Pendleton Whisky World Standings. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Cody Stampede will be the first of several big events for Bullfighters Only

The Cody (Wyo.) Stampede is one of the most established events in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, with a history that dates back nearly 100 years.

It’s also the kick-off point for Bullfighters Only’s summer run that includes more than a dozen events from June through mid-September. The namesake town of showman “Buffalo” Bill Cody is the perfect venue for freestyle bullfighting, the most extreme of all Western sports.

Dusty Tuckness

Dusty Tuckness

“Last year was our first year touring to rodeos,” said Aaron Ferguson, the BFO’s founder and CEO. “We learned so much and we’re excited to go back and put on an even better shows in Cody and everywhere we go.

“Cody is special because we’ve got Dusty Tuckness competing in front of his hometown crowd.”

Tuckness is the seven-time and reigning PRCA Bullfighter of the Year from nearby Meeteetse, Wyo., and he leads the Pendleton Whisky BFO World Standings with $20,000 in earnings. He also is the reigning Cody Stampede BFO champion.

“It’s always great to come back home to not only compete but also work the rodeo as a whole,” Tuckness said. “To be able to bring the BFO along makes it that much better.”

Tuckness is a Bullfighters Only pioneer, a group of elite bullfighters that have been part of the BFO since its inception back in 2015. Because Cody is just 30 miles from Meeteetse, it’s the perfect place for Tuckness to showcase his tremendous athleticism in front of his friends and family.

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

“I think it’s going to be a really good event this year,” Ferguson said of the Cody bullfight. “Our contractor, WAR Fighting Bulls, just moved to Montana and has an awesome pen of bulls. We’ve got a good lineup of bullfighters again this year as well.”

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

That lineup includes the reigning world champion, Weston Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas.

“When I got to Cody last year, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Rutkowski, the No. 2 man in the standings. “Just being a kid from west Texas, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But I learned just how big that rodeo is, that people come from all over the world to see it.

“It was very eye-opening to see how much people loved it. It’s telling of how big the bullfights can really be.”

That’s the kind of reception the bullfighters began seeing at all of their summer rodeos, and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year. Bullfighters Only will also have events virtually every week through early September.

“After Cody, we’re hitting a lot of other great rodeos, starting with Vernal (Utah) being the next major stop,” Ferguson said of the July 6-8 event. “It’s one of the coolest rodeos in Utah. The crowd likes to have fun, and it’s a rowdy place which makes for good bullfights.”

The BFO will then have a two-day stop in Colorado Springs, Colo. during the annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo before a mini stand-alone bullfight in Fortuna, Calif., on July 14.

“We will have three, three-man bouts in the first round, and the winners advance to the short round,” Ferguson said. “It’s an amazing setting, too, with massive Redwood trees in the background.”

After the event in northern California, Bullfighters Only returns to the rodeo schedule. You can find the full schedule and more at www.BullfightersOnly.com.

Injury Report

Three of Bullfighters Only’s top men are on the sidelines as they recover from injury. Ross Hill of Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Nathan Harp of Tuttle, Okla., are out for four to six months with ACL injuries, and Cody Greer of Pryor, Okla., is out at least another six weeks after suffering a broken tailbone at the Cavender’s Cup.

postheadericon Smith makes his mark in Gunnison

Stace Smith Pro Rodeo, an 11-time stock contractor of the year, will have a great set of bucking animals and high level rodeo production at Cattlemen's Days. (ALLAN IVY PHOTO)

Stace Smith Pro Rodeo, an 11-time stock contractor of the year, will have a great set of bucking animals and high level rodeo production at Cattlemen’s Days. (ALLAN IVY PHOTO)

GUNNISON, Colo. – The volunteers that organize the Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo work hard annually to make it one of the best.

“One of the biggest things we have is our stock contractor, Stace Smith,” said Margo Patton Blair, president of Cattlemen’s Days. “Stace Smith is one of the greatest producers in rodeo, and the proof is in the number of times he’s been named stock contractor of the year.”

For 11 straight years – from 2004 to 2014 – Smith was named the No. 1 livestock producer in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He and his crew will return to Gunnison for this year’s rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 13, to Saturday, July 15, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“The record speaks for itself,” said Andy Stewart, the longtime announcer of the Cattlemen’s Days rodeo. “Stace Smith Pro Rodeo has great production and a really good crew. Everybody that works for Stace is a professional; it increases the quality of production, which I feel is extremely important in the world of rodeo.”

Rodeo is a combination of family-friendly entertainment and world-class competition, and the Smith crew works hard to make sure all aspects are handled well.

“We’re in the business to entertain crowds and put on a good rodeo,” said Cody Kidd, general manager for Smith’s firms, which also includes Smith, Harper & Morgan. “We try to bring the best stock we can to every rodeo we do, because we want to attract the best cowboys and give them the best shot to win. The other part of what we do is that we’re entertainment, which is why we have pyrotechnics and a laser light show.”

Virtually every year, more than a dozen Smith animals are selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It’s that type of superstar animal athlete power that helps draw the top contestants to Gunnison.

“Stace Smith has great stock,” Stewart said. “That firm is extremely well known throughout the industry. The main thing I like about Smith Pro Rodeo is the pride they take into what they do. He’s going to come out and put on the best show possible.

“Those guys definitely have a sense of professionalism and pride in what they do.”

The staff also works with some of the greatest bucking animals in the game. Last year, Smith had seven horses and seven bulls that performed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

That’s the type of animal power that fans get to see in Gunnison every year.

“The stock is always great there,” Stewart said. “The mountains offer an awesome setting, and the animals love the weather. They are lights out every night.”

And when the lights go down on the final night of the rodeo each year, fans know they got something special out of Cattlemen’s Days and Stace Smith Pro Rodeo.

postheadericon Rumford is ready to rock Eagle

Five-time Clown of the Year Justin Rumford launches himself over a couple of willing participants during his act at a recent rodeo. Rumford will be featured at the Eagle County (Colo.) Fair and Rodeo. (FRAN RUCHALSKI PHOTO)

Five-time Clown of the Year Justin Rumford launches himself over a couple of willing participants during his act at a recent rodeo. Rumford will be featured at the Eagle County (Colo.) Fair and Rodeo. (FRAN RUCHALSKI PHOTO)

EAGLE, Colo. – Justin Rumford can’t remember the first time he was horseback; that happens when one grows up cowboy.

The Kansas-bred cowboy has done everything imaginable when it comes to rodeo. He was the third generation of his family’s stock contracting business, and there isn’t a task he can’t handle or hasn’t tried.

“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” said Rumford, the reigning five-time Clown of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I really worked hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.

“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had. It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”

He will have that passion with him for the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19-Saturday, July 22, at Johnette Phillips Arena on the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” he said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning. It’s just me being me.”

That’s just Rumford’s personality shining through, and it’s been a big hit across the country.

“He is so well known, and I find him very entertaining,” said Hanna Albertson, chairwoman of the fair and rodeo’s advisory council. “I think Eagle County is going to enjoy having such a big name with our clown.

“He seems like the kind of person who is genuinely funny.”

He continues to be one of the most sought-after rodeo clowns in the game. But there are many reasons behind it.

“I have seven acts,” Rumford said. “At a lot of rodeos I work, there are lots of performances, so I like to change it up. I’m not a specialty act; I’m a clown act.

“I’m constantly trying to think of new stuff.”

Whether it’s “Fat Elvis” on a mini bike or the Rumford rendition of Spiderman, the acts are a big part of the entertainment value. But he’s the perfect all-around entertainer, a man who understands the timing that comes with rodeo.

It’s all part of making the production come across as seamless as possible. If there is any downtime in the competition, Rumford is on hand to engage the crowd. It’s a vital piece of the keeping the family-friendly entertainment part of each performance.

“I think my specialty is walking and talking and being in the arena,” he said. “I feel like I can connect with the crowd pretty good. Even when my microphone isn’t on, I’m still talking to fans. You can do a lot without saying a word.”

That’s an integral part of being a clown; sharing a particular move or a flashing glance in the right direction. As a clown with a bit of a bigger build, it is primary target of comedy is himself.

“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning. It’s just me being me.”

postheadericon Allen, Devers finish CNFR in top 10

ALVA, Okla. – For the second straight year, two Northwestern Oklahoma State University steer wrestlers finished among the top 10 at the College National Finals Rodeo.

Joby Allen of Alva and Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, finished fourth and 10th, respectively, at last week’s finale in Casper, Wyo. Allen had a four-run cumulative time of 23.5 seconds to finish in a tie for fourth overall; he also added points by finishing in a tie for fourth in the second round and placing third in the championship round.

Joby Allen

Joby Allen

“It took me a little while to get rolling on it,” said Allen, who dominated the final few rodeos to win the Central Plains Region title. “I didn’t have a run that I liked until the short round.

“They had been 7.8 and 11.0 on the steer I had in the short round. That was the only run of the four that my feet hit good on the ground and I was able to turn the steer back.”

He stopped the clock in 4.6 seconds, which moved him up in the final aggregate standings.

“The biggest deal in Casper is scoring sharp and catching all your cattle,” he said. “I feel like I didn’t have a great finals, but I still ended up fourth.”

Like Allen, Devers will have an opportunity to return to Casper next year. He qualified for the college finals a year ago while competing at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, then upped his game this year with a top-10 finish in his junior campaign.

Cody Devers

Cody Devers

“I had a good steer on the first won and ended up tying for the first-round win,” said Devers, who was 3.7 seconds in the opening round. “I didn’t draw real well after that. By the time we got down to the short go, I had to push a little too much, which caused me to break the barrier.”

By not allowing the steer the appropriate head start, Devers was penalized 10 seconds, pushing his run to 14.4 seconds.

“It cost me from finishing fourth in the average,” he said. “Winning the round was a big confidence booster. I placed in a couple rounds last year, so this was the first time for me to win a round at the college finals.”

The Northwestern men finished 13th overall – there were 58 schools that scored points, so the Rangers were among the top teams. Header Dylan Schulenberg of Coal Valley, Ill., also earned points by placing in the first round. The Rangers women had points from barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., and goat-tier Tearnee Nelson of Faith, S.D.; both ladies placed in the third round.

Northwestern had two strong teams in Casper, but the bulldoggers gathered the lion’s share of the Rangers points. A year ago, J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., won the college steer wrestling title, while Jacob Edler of State Center, Iowa, finished second.

“If you want to better yourself in steer wrestling, you come to Alva, and you’ll be better than when you came here,” Allen said. “The announcer said Alva is going to be the steer wrestling capital of college rodeo, and I think that’s the truth.”

It all goes back to what happens on a daily basis around the Northwestern campus. Cowboys and cowgirls train hard to prepare for each rodeo, each chance at competition. It’s instilled in them by rodeo coach Stockton Graves.

“He’s always really positive and promotes winning,” Devers said. “He wants you to be the best you can. If you ask, he’ll tell you anything you need. He lets you go out there and compete and win. He coaches you in the practice pen and lets muscle memory and all that practice work kick in when you get in the arena.”

It’s paying off. Even though the Rangers didn’t finish atop the heap, at least they gained another learning experience through their rodeo education.

“Finishing fourth this year makes me want to work harder, go back next year and come back with the national title,” Allen said. “It makes me want to get better.”

postheadericon The Rooftop Rodeo legacy

Amy Vigil is one of many longtime volunteers who help make the annual Rooftop Rodeo a big hit.

Amy Vigil is one of many longtime volunteers who help make the annual Rooftop Rodeo a big hit.

Longtime volunteers reflect on the history of Estes Park’s marquee event

ESTES PARK, Colo. – There’s a reason why Rooftop Rodeo is considered one of the best ProRodeos in the country.

“It’s the people that made this organization fun to be in,” said Gary Cleveland, a longtime member of Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “Their thoughts are for the benefits of the cowboys and the people in attendance.

“That’s what really draws me. There’s no showboating by anybody. It’s a real team effort to have something so good.”

After 20 Rooftop Rodeos, Cleveland has retired from the committee and will be a spectator for the 2017 edition of Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 5-Monday, July 10, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park.

But Cleveland knows the undertone of the local rodeo, as do many others who have been on the committee for several years.

“Our committee works really well with each other and seems to have a very good time doing it,” said Sean Murray, a 24-year member of Western Heritage. “Of course, if we didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t be there.”

That resonates across the board, and the residents, tourists and contestants who make it to Estes Park in early July are the beneficiaries.

“The rodeo means tradition, which is very important to me,” said Jo Adams, now in her 26th year on the rodeo committee. “When I was a kid, Estes Park was deemed the Horse Capital of the World. It’s gone away from that, but I can see now that it’s coming back.

“The rodeo is a good way to introduce a total Western lifestyle to people, and that makes me feel good.”

Rodeo, as a sport, is a tip-of-the-hat to the days of yesteryear, when livestock was such a vital part of everyday lives. As with everything, the sport has evolved, but its roots are firmly planted in its past.

“Rodeo and horses have always been my passions,” said Amy Vigil, who is celebrating her 19th year with Western Heritage and will honor her 20th rodeo in a few weeks. “We just have so much fun with this. Watching the committee, the volunteers and the rodeo grow together is just phenomenal.

“You can’t find a better group of people, and we’re all best friends.”

That common thread has paid off rather well. Over the last two decades, Rooftop Rodeo has regularly been recognized as one of the top events in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. That falls on the committee that organizes the rodeo, but it also serves as a reflection of the town of Estes Park.

“The rodeo brings a lot of people into Estes Park,” said Chief Jenista, who has been associated with Rooftop Rodeo for 27 years. “We have the tourists, but I think the rodeo brings prestige, especially when the rodeo was No. 1 for so long.

“When I go someplace, people have heard about Rooftop. That says a lot about the rodeo.”

For those that have been in Estes Park most of their lives, the rodeo has been part of them for decades.

“It’s traditional family entertainment,” Adams said. “I think it’s a step out of the hectic, everyday pace and shows what you can do with animals and the respect for animals.

“Rooftop is just part of Estes Park, and it has been for 91 years.”

And for volunteers, being part of that history is rewarding. It takes a dedicated group of people willing to put in long hours to make each year go off without a hitch, but each volunteer believes in the end result.

“Estes Park is where I grew up,” Cleveland said. “I was a baby when we went up there. Growing up in that aspect of that town, you try to find something to give back to that town. The rodeo is a way I could give back to the town by volunteering my time and energy to an event that benefits the town.

“It makes you feel good.”

It shows every July, just as it has for 91 years.

postheadericon Isley to inject Gunnison with humor

GUNNISON, Colo. – For a man who spends much of his life on the rodeo trail, entertainer Keith Isley feels right at home inside the arena.

“I thoroughly enjoy watching people have a good time and enjoy what I do or what I say,” said Isley, 59.

He is one of the most decorated clowns in rodeo, and he will be part of the festivities during the Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 13, to Saturday, July 15, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

Keith Isley is the most decorated entertainer in ProRodeo, and will be in Gunnison this July for Cattlemen's Days. (JAMES PHIFER PHOTO)

Keith Isley is the most decorated entertainer in ProRodeo, and will be in Gunnison this July for Cattlemen’s Days. (JAMES PHIFER PHOTO)

“Just seeing people enjoy it and have a good time,” he said. “Sometimes later in the year, you’ll get home and have some letters for you and have some pictures of you that kids have drawn.

“It’s the little things that really make me feel like I’m accomplishing something.”

He has accomplished much. He’s been named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year six times, the Coors Man in the Can five times, the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year six times and PRCA Specialty Act of the Year three times. For three straight years, from 2009-11, he won the funnyman’s trifecta: Clown of the Year, Coors Man in the Can and Comedy Act of the Year.

In addition to being one of the best funny men in the business, he also has some of the top acts in rodeo. He’ll have it all with him when he arrives in Gunnison.

“I enjoy what I do, and it’s a lot of fun when you’ve got a good crowd and a good announcer,” said Isley, who will work Cattlemen’s Days with announcer Andy Stewart, a top five announcer each year. “When you see people with smiles on their faces, and then people come up to you and appreciate what you do, that makes what we do a lot more worthwhile.”

Isley sees a lot of smiles and has for much of his professional life. Though he was considered a class clown, being a comedian didn’t come easily.

“Oh, it was natural if I knew you, but if I didn’t know you, it was really hard,” he said. “When I started the comedy, that was really hard for me to get used to because I didn’t know those people watching me.”

He has since overcome his stage fright to become one of the most sought-after entertainers in the game. There’s good reason for it, too. Part of a good clown’s job is to fill any down time that could some during the event. If there’s a pause in the action, Isley knows it’s his turn to step up to the plate.

“I like to play on the crowd,” he said. “I like to have fun with people that like to have fun.”

It works, but Isley has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He loves working with animals and allowing them to steal the show. When it’s all put together, it’s an award-winning showcase that reaches so many people.

“Back in 1999, I worked a rodeo in Belle Foursche (S.D.); during the trick riding act, I was talking to the announcer and was just looking around,” he said. “That’s when I saw the contestants standing all around the arena just watching.”

When Isley left town, he reflected on that image and still considers it one of his greatest honors. Later that year, he earned was named the Specialty Act of the Year for the first time.

“Since then, I’ve won it a few times,” Isley said. “I’ve undoubtedly been the most blessed man who’s ever bought a PRCA membership.”

The fans are blessed, too.

postheadericon Bronc busting on the Plains

The top bronc riders in North America are expected to be in the field for the inaugural Hard Grass Bronc Match, set for 6 p.m. July 29 in Pollockville, Alberta.

The top bronc riders in North America are expected to be in the field for the inaugural Hard Grass Bronc Match, set for 6 p.m. July 29 in Pollockville, Alberta.

Hard Grass Bronc Match to pit top cowboys vs. great horses in big money event

POLLOCKVILLE, Alberta – They crave good horses and the opportunities to cash in when the rides go well.

Now the top saddle bronc riders in North America will converge on this tiny hamlet for the Hard Grass Bronc Match, set for 6 p.m. Saturday, July 29.

“We figured it would be fitting to have an event out here where we’re in the heart of cattle country,” said Tyler Kraft, an event organizer who serves as manager of the Calgary Stampede Ranch near Hanna, Alberta. “We went to different bronc ridings in North Dakota and South Dakota and really thought this would be good for this part of Alberta.

“In our area, we have around 1,500 bucking horses. Why would we be driving 1,000 miles when we could put on one here?”

The event will feature 30 of the best bronc riders in the world, from world champions to regulars at both the National Finals Rodeo and the Canadian Finals Rodeo. With $25,000 included in the committee purse and mixed with entry fees, the winner should walk away from Pollockville with at least $10,000 stuffed in his jeans.

“I love bronc matches,” said Zeke Thurston, a second-generation bronc rider and the reigning world champion from Big Valley, Alberta. “They’re awesome, and when you can get one that counts for the world standings, then it’s even better.”

The Hard Grass Bronc Match will be co-approved by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. That means money earned in Pollockville will count toward qualifications for both the CFR and the NFR. That’s an important piece of the puzzle for the bronc riders that make their living one bucking horse at a time.

“From a bronc rider’s standpoint, anytime you can watch that many horses get bucked in a day is a pretty good day,” said Thurston, whose father, Skeeter, was a multiple-time qualifier to both the NFR and CFR. “I like the way it pays out, and whatever you win goes in both standings. They have lots of bull riding events that count for the standings, so it’s cool that you can have a lot of bronc ridings like that, too.”

The event will feature many of the top bucking broncs in the game today, horses that have performed at the Calgary Stampede and other large rodeos, including the two finales.

“Speaking on behalf of the Calgary Stampede Ranch, we’re going to be bringing the heat,” Kraft said. “We’ll also have Big Stone Rodeo (of Cessford, Alberta) there helping bring some great horses.”

Each of the 30 cowboys will ride in the first round, with the top eight scores advancing to the championship round. When the final-round field is set, the cowboys will then pick the horses out of a list of 12 available that they want to face for the chance to win the short go and the title. The cowboy with highest score will select first, then the rest will choose according to how they placed.

“Bronc matches are pretty awesome,” said Dustin Flundra, a three-time Canadian champion from Pincher Creek, Alberta, who owns three NFR qualifications and the 2014 Calgary Stampede bronze. “Now that they’re starting to count for the standings makes them more attractive to the contestants.

“We know bull ridings have worked on their own, but there are a lot of people that aren’t necessarily bull riding fans but they like watching bucking horses. Now we’re going to showcase those high-caliber horses, and the best cowboys in North America are going to come.”

That combination will make it a spectacular event, but so will the setting. Pollockville is home to about 10 people and is a little more than two hours east of Calgary.

“About the only thing in the whole town is a 500-capacity dance hall, and there’s a big lean-to off it,” Kraft said. “We figured it would be neat to do it in the open prairie.”

Stands have been purchased, and organizers will utilize a Priefert arena set-up. That will make it homey and fun for fans who want to watch something special happen inside the portable fencing.

“It’s pretty exciting that we’re going to have more and more of these things and that people can enjoy,” Thurston said. “It’s an exciting time, especially for the world of rodeo.”

Bronc matches are nothing new to rodeo, but what sets the Hard Grass Bronc Match apart from most is that the money counts for both the premier rodeo associations in North America. The event in Sentinel Butte, N.D., counts for the PRCA world standings.

“It’s a lot like the Wildwood Bronc Busting that Roddy Hay puts on,” Flundra said of the early June event in Wildwood, Alberta. “Like Roddy’s event, the horses will be amazing. There will be a lot of horses that have been to both the NFR and the Canadian Finals, and a lot have been to one or the other.

“The cowboys will be of the same kind of caliber. That makes for some pretty good watching.”

Our Partners

RodeoMediaRelations

4BWebDesign

EverythingCowboy

Photos

twisTEDrodeoPhotos