Archive for June, 2018

postheadericon Tuffy sends powerful message

Tuffy, the Gunnison Cattlemen's Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink transportation vehicle, has been a big help to ease the minds of breast cancer patients and their families.

Tuffy, the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink transportation vehicle, has been a big help to ease the minds of breast cancer patients and their families.

Breast cancer patients find comfort, peace of mind in utilizing transportation pickup from the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink

GUNNISON, Colo. – No matter where it happened, the meeting was cold and uncomfortable. Fear gripped the chests of those involved – doctor, patient, loved ones.

But the words were devastating.

Breast cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017, my world was effectively shattered,” Laurene Farley wrote in Gunnison Country Magazine.

She’s not alone. Millions have experienced that same message, those same feelings. They have undergone countless treatments, multiple surgeries and experienced those moments when despair can be overwhelming. But there are support systems that help, and that’s one of the benefits of the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink program.

Through its efforts over the last 13 years, more than $2 million has been used to raise needed equipment and assist those families that are battling breast cancer. TETWP and the Gunnison Valley Hospital have forged a collaboration that continues to help local patients with their needs, but it goes well beyond that.

There are care programs in place, and the TETWP board has purchased two patient transport vehicles – “Tuffy” is a 2016 RAM 1500 that has been used to get breast cancer patients to necessary treatments away from their home hospital, and “Bucky” is a new Dodge Durango that will be open to other cancer patients in the Gunnison Valley for similar reasons.

Both are available to help relieve some of the burden that comes with battling cancer.

“We have two vehicles, but they weren’t as comfortable or as good in the winter weather,” said Farley, who made multiple trips to Denver for treatments, surgery and appointments. “It was nice knowing we didn’t have to worry about the weather and could just focus on what we needed to do.”

That is the foundation behind the transportation vehicles. There are enough worries for families battling cancer, so the TETWP board wanted to alleviate that. Whether it’s the patient, a family member or a volunteer driving, the purpose remains the same.

“I took a patient to Delta, where they were testing to confirm it was breast cancer,” said Karen Redden, who has offered her driving services for patients with that need. “The best part was getting to know the woman that I drove.

“She was an amazing woman. I learned so much about her, how funny she was, things I never would have had the opportunity to have without that discussion with her.”

Redden operates a real estate business out of her home. Realizing she had some flexibility, she threw her hat into the ring. It’s not the first time she has been part of Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink.

“When we started the whole fundraising process for TETWP, I volunteered on the original board and helped establish some of the fundraising stuff we still do,” she said. “My daughters have both been Cattlemen’s Days royalty for the rodeo. They also actively participate in fundraisers. We, as a family, are big supporters. It’s important to my daughters to see how you can give back to your community.”

Community is the key. The Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign has utilized all money it has raised on caring for needs of local breast cancer patients.

“The truck was peace of mind if we got on a bad road during our trips,” said Judy Buffington Sammons, who utilized Tuffy during several trips to Montrose this past January. “We knew we’d have a reliable vehicle, so it helped us a lot.”

The stories from those that have benefitted from the pickup help shed a bright light on those dreary days of diagnoses and treatments, doctors’ visits and long drives over mountain passes that come with it. The brightly colored, wrapped RAM 1500 is easily identified, and it sends a clear message to all who see it: No one is alone in their fight against breast cancer.

“Each time that my husband took me to Denver in Tuffy, just riding in the truck gave me food for thought,” Farley wrote. “People who saw us parking somewhere with the truck would give me a friendly thumb’s up or cheer; hospital valets asked about the truck each week; my doctors were so excited to hear of such a wonderful gift.

“All of these experiences brought me to fully understand the ‘pink thing.’ It has brought me incredible strength, understanding and fortitude.”

Those are all things needed in a fight for one’s life, and Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink is in the corner of every patient that needs it.

postheadericon Reno provides a boost to Furr

Kris Furr is utilizing his victory last week in Reno, Nev., as momentum as he heads to the Bullfighters Only Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop at the Cody (Wyo.) Stampede this weekend. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Kris Furr is utilizing his victory last week in Reno, Nev., as momentum as he heads to the Bullfighters Only Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop at the Cody (Wyo.) Stampede this weekend. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

North Carolinian riding confidence into BFO stop at Cody Stampede

CODY, Wyo. – Heading into the 2018 Bullfighters Only Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop at the Cody Stampede, Kris Furr is experiencing a nearly euphoric case of confidence.

He is fresh off a victory at the BFO event this past week at the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo, where he posted an 89.5-point fight in the Hooey Championship Round to claim the crown. Furr sits second in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings and moves a step closer to catching leader Toby Inman.

“Cody is going to be another fun bullfight,” said Furr of Hamptonville, N.C. “I’m just excited to be part of it. I try not to think too much about the bull side of the fight, but I know they’re going to be good.”

The animal is a major part of the equation. With scores based on a 100-point scale, half comes from the animal’s aggression and ability to stay hooked on to the fighter; the other half comes from the bullfighter’s ability to remain close while maneuvering around, and over the bull. That’s why Furr’s fight last week was so measurable.

“When you go out there with a hot bull and stick it all over him, it makes you feel good,” he said. “I had a crisp, clean bullfight, and it was definitely a confidence-booster. Now I’m ready for another.”

Furr pocketed $6,000 in Reno and trails Inman by less than $5,000 heading into a major run of rodeos that are part of the BFO’s Wrangler Bullfight Tour. He bested two-time reigning champion Weston Rutkowski for the Reno title, but both men put on spectacular fights.

“I felt like that was the best I’ve fought in a long time,” said Rutkowski, who placed second. “I made the moves I needed to. Even in my short-round bullfight with Sid Vicious, I only made one mistake and ended up paying for it. I was on my way to a 90-point bullfight, but stubbed my toe, and you can’t do that with a bull that good.”

Sid Vicious is owned by Manuel Costa, and the animal was named the BFO Bull of the Year in 2017. He proved it in the final few seconds of the bout by hooking the champ. Rutkowski sits No. 3 in the standings, more than $10,000 behind Inman.

“It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon,” he said. “As long as I can pull some money here and there, it will be alright. I’m already off to a better start this year compared to last year. I just need to keep plugging away at it.”

He’ll have a good chance to add to it Saturday night in Cody. He was the runner-up in 2016 and won the title last year.

“Cody’s a place I love to come to,” said Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas. “The stands are packed, and it’s a great rodeo with a great event. The bulls always fight good there. Last year it kicked off my summer run, which was big in winning the world championship again.

“If a guy does well there, he can put his foot forward to that summer run. It’s fun to come back to an arena where you’ve done well before. You expect to do it again.”

Dusty Tuckness
Weston Rutkowski
Justin Josey
Kris Furr
Tate Rhoads

postheadericon WPRA honors Rooftop Rodeo

Rooftop Rodeo earned its sixth Rodeo of the Year nod last year when the WPRA honored it with the Medium Committee of the Year.

Rooftop Rodeo earned its sixth Rodeo of the Year nod last year when the WPRA honored it with the Medium Committee of the Year.

Estes Park’s celebrated event wins its sixth Rodeo of the Year honor

ESTES PARK, Colo. – When officials decided to make a change in the footing at the Granny May Arena inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds, they were just trying to make things better.

It did, and the barrel racers in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association said so in 2017. Rooftop Rodeo was named the WPRA’s Medium Committee of the Year, thanks in large part to the money, time and heavy lifting by all involved to create the better footing for the arena. It will continue to serve the competitors at this year’s rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5-Tuesday, July 10.

“When a committee goes above and beyond for those cowboys, they deserve the awards,” said Taci Bettis, the reigning Rooftop Rodeo champion barrel racer from Round Top, Texas. “When you put in that much effort, that’s what you get.”

Bettis hit the ProRodeo trail hard for the first time a season ago. It was her first visit to Estes Park, and she made the most of it. Not only did she win the championship, but her 17.36-second run set a new standard for the annual rodeo.

“That was part of those weeks in July when I set everything off,” said Bettis, the 2017 WPRA Rookie of the Year and a top 5 barrel racer this season. “I’d never been at that arena before, so to go in and break the record was special.”

Bettis was one of six Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers to place in barrel racing at last year’s Rooftop Rodeo. That’s a telling tale about why the WPRA ladies selected Estes Park’s rodeo as one of the best in the game. It was the sixth time in the event’s 92 years that it has been named Rodeo of the Year; it was a five-time winner in the Professional Rodeo Association.

“We put in a lot of work into the arena between the 2016 and 2017 rodeos,” said Rob Hinkle, the community services director for the town of Estes Park. “The footing was just not good for the barrel racers, so we put $125,000 into new footing.

“It’s already paid off, which was great to show off that improvement in one year. It meant a lot to the rodeo and to the town.”

Besides the award, there have been other benefits. Hinkle said the arena has gained a few new horse shows because of the better footing.

“Everybody’s taken great pride in it,” he said. “It was a lot of work. The members of the rodeo committee had to take out all the chutes and all the fencing, then put it all back in.

“By getting awards like that, it provides a lot of energy in that committee to keep going forward.”

postheadericon Dancehall band to play Cattlemen’s Days

Ken Stonecipher and the Wooden Nickel Band will be performing on Friday, July 13-Saturday, July 14, during Cattlemen's Days. They will be providing dancehall music at Wapiti Ridge Saloon on Friday and at Garlic Mike's on Saturday. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Ken Stonecipher and the Wooden Nickel Band will be performing on Friday, July 13-Saturday, July 14, during Cattlemen’s Days. They will be providing dancehall music at Wapiti Ridge Saloon on Friday and at Garlic Mike’s on Saturday. (COURTESY PHOTO)

GUNNISON, Colo. – Part of the success of the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration lies in the involvement of so many.

That’s why organizers decided to make a change to their post-rodeo entertainment, bringing in the dancehall music of Ken Stonecipher and the Wooden Nickel Band.

“What we really wanted to do was have people engaged in the music that was being played,” said Kevin Coblentz, president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee. “We wanted to have a band that people could dance to and really enjoy the music.”

The band will perform after the Friday, July 13, rodeo performance at the Wapiti Ridge Saloon. On Saturday, Stonecipher and his group will be at Garlic Mike’s after the final night of the rodeo.

“We’re excited to be playing in Gunnison and to be in town for the rodeo,” said Stonecipher, who has led the band for the last 18 years. “I’ve never been, and I can’t wait to go. All the guys are excited to go.”

He considers the band’s sound dancehall music, a variety of cover songs that most have heard and that will entice those that enjoy dancing.

“The first filter on what we play is songs that I like,” he said. “There are a lot of good songs out there that aren’t good for dancing. They’re good to listen to in a concert.

“I grew up in dancehalls, so I have an ear for that kind of music, stuff that is a good two-step and is a good waltz. That’s how we put our set list together. We try to have something for everybody, from Hank Williams Sr. to the Turnpike Troubadours. We try to have something people can enjoy.”

That’s the epitome of dancehall music.

“We try to play your favorite, but we’ll dang sure play music you can dance to,” Stonecipher said. “We play to have fun, but we want the people that are dancing to have fun, too.”

The Wooden Nickel band has been transformed over the years. After playing and singing primarily in church services, he and another musician would play acoustically. The duo then added a bassist, then a drummer. Now it’s a five-piece band with all the fixings.

“It was a hodgepodge,” he said. “That’s really how it all started. I didn’t necessarily set out to be in a band; it just somehow happened.”

Only Stonecipher remains from the original band, but he’s added the flavor of professional musicians who enjoy the opportunity to play their brand of music. They average between 20-30 shows a year, depending on his work schedule and when he might be announcing rodeos across the Midwest.

“We have a variety of old and new, and we put it all together,” Stonecipher said. “I’m a rodeo guy, so I think I understand rodeo crowds. They don’t call music classic because it’s old; they call it classic because it’s good.”

And that’s just what people in Gunnison will get on the final weekend of Cattlemen’s Days.

postheadericon Making a difference locally

Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign is helping Gunnison Valley Hospital be a model for what can be done in rural health care

GUNNISON, Colo. – While the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink program is a grassroots effort focused on community, its impact resonates all across the country.

Robert Santilli has worked in health care for more than four decades, and he understands more than most how beneficial the TETWP effort has been in the Gunnison Valley. Now the chief executive officer at Gunnison Valley Hospital, he experiences it first-hand.

“After 40-plus years, this has been something new on me,” Santilli said of the campaign, which has raised more than $2 million that has been utilized in the local community for needed equipment and assisting families that are battling breast cancer. “I haven’t seen too many new things, but this is one that’s certainly been a pleasure to be associated with.”

The TETWP program has been in place for 13 years, and Santilli calls its association with the hospital a collaboration. That’s the most fitting of words, because together they serve the Gunnison community quite well.

Rob Santilli

Rob Santilli

“With ours being a rural hospital and a critical-access hospital, our relationship with Tough Enough to Wear Pink is one of the best opportunities we have as a gift to the health care system,” he said. “They are a group of people that are so interested in their cause, to assist and help people who have breast cancer and help them in eliminating breast cancer.

“We plan together on the needs for the community, assess what the needs for the health system are and how they can assist on funding them. This is a collaboration that has been a dream come true for us.”

In fact, members of the TETWP board have been involved in the strategic planning for the hospital. They have joined the hospital’s cancer steering committee, which is a big deal in that the group works to integrate their participation into the strategic plan and push the development together.

Over the course of the next two years, the strategic plan for the cancer care services includes 21 objectives, from marketing to equipment to therapies to advisement and all aspects in between.

“The TETWP’s finances are the key to it, but it’s really turned into something more,” Santilli said. “There has almost been a momentum that has been geometric when you entrust that TETWP has for the funding they’ve been able to put together.”

The Cattlemen’s Days TETWP features its largest fundraiser, the Songwriter Concert & Auction, will take place Tuesday, July 10, at Mt. Crested Butte, Colo., and will feature country stars Tyler Farr, James Otto and legendary songwriter Dean Dillon, who also serves as a TETWP board member.

“To be able to capitalize on Cattlemen’s Days has put them as the No. 1 fundraising group for all Tough Enough to Wear Pink in the country,” Santilli said. “Their commitment to financing the hospital is something that pushes us even harder.

“We actually have a group that gets together and starts brainstorming together. That creates ideas you didn’t think you could accomplish in a rural community.”

But community and family seem to be a common theme, both for the hospital and for the TETWP board. All money raised is utilized locally, truly showcasing the commitment to giving back to the people in the Gunnison Valley. Whether they are breast cancer patients or family members, the campaign has been about keeping that focus on those community members that may be suffering.

“I came from a very large health system,” he said. “The types of resources that I was used to seeing were dramatically different than what we’ve had here. What I brought was thinking outside the box. If we’re going to offer services here, I would like the services to be ones we would offer to our own family.

“With my background, I know where the best services are. Tough Enough to Wear Pink and that board and other key members have pushed me. They’ve been able to latch on to the kinds of things they see value in and what they’ve researched. They’ve pushed me in that collaboration. Sometimes you have to get outside of your comfort zone. My role has been to lasso that information and make it happen.”

It’s been happening. While the groups look toward the 21 objectives they want completed by the end of 2020, they also can look back at the achievements they’ve made. A year ago, TETWP money funded a 3D tomosynthesis machine, which is a higher-level mammogram for those who need better imaging technology due to breast density.

“A really telling sign when we were creating those 20-plus objectives is that we saw 20 to 25 things we did in the last year,” Santilli said. “Some of those were things we didn’t think we would be able to accomplish. To list those as completed gave us the motivation to make the next move forward. It gave us the confidence to continue taking things to the next level.”

This progressive approach is nothing new to Santilli, Gunnison Valley Hospital or the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink program. Through collaborations, groups have made solid ground while always pushing for bigger and better ways to help treat and assist cancer patients in the community.

“I’m most proud of an organization that has set itself apart in rethinking rural health care,” he said. “Instead of looking at what we couldn’t do because we had limited resources, we have been a model for what rural health care can be.

“What I’ve learned is with the services we provide, we actually do it better than large health systems. We are working with fewer patients, which allows us to bring a higher focus and deliver a better outcome.”

postheadericon Sosebee returning to Roundup

Rodeo clown Cody Sosebee returns to Dodge City Roundup Rodeo this August to help entertain fans who attend the ProRodeo Hall of Fame event.

Rodeo clown Cody Sosebee returns to Dodge City Roundup Rodeo this August to help entertain fans who attend the ProRodeo Hall of Fame event.

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Much of Cody Sosebee’s life has changed since the last time he was in Dodge City.

This past December, he worked the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time in his career. A couple of months ago, he became engaged to Tonya Baumgartner, and now he’s planning a wedding. At least he’s supposed to be helping with it, anyway.

But that won’t deter him from his return to the largest rodeo in western Kansas, the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1-Sunday, Aug. 5, at Roundup Arena. That also includes the Xtreme Bulls, which takes place Tuesday, July 31.

“To me, Dodge City is the epitome of cowboy and rodeo,” said Sosebee, a regular nominee for PRCA Clown of the Year and Comedy Act of the Year. “There are a lot of cowboys that come to that rodeo from the ranches and the farms. I feel like a real cowboy when you go to Dodge City.”

He knows cowboy. He’s been one all his life. He may not wear the hat as often, but he understands the Western lifestyle and what rodeo means to a region. Before he began clowning, Sosebee rode bareback horses and has been around rodeo as long as he can remember.

That’s why his selection to work the barrel at the NFR meant so much to him.

“I am very humbled by it, because I automatically thought of the guys who had come before me who had never been selected to work the finals,” he said. “There’s no way to describe it, because the guys voted for it. I can take that with me forever.

“It 10 times everything for me. It was 10 times more work than I thought. It was 10 times more fun than I thought. I just tried to soak it all up. I knew I was getting to do something special.”

It’s something the Roundup Rodeo committee understands.

“We thoroughly enjoyed working with Cody when he was here a few years ago,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the volunteer group that produces the annual rodeo. “He brings a certain flair to his comedy that was a hit for the fans that come to our rodeo. He’s just a true entertainer.”

Much of that comes from his size: Sosebee is bigger than most rodeo clowns, and his raw athleticism shows through the extra cushions his body allows. His acts just accentuate it all into one funny package.

“Having the ability to laugh at myself is probably my biggest strength,” he said. “I don’t take anything too serious. When I’m watching a comedian, the funniest thing I see is when they’re honestly open and having a good time.”

Most importantly, he wants the fans to have a good time.

“I think I bring a sense of energy to an event, and I try to bring a new level of energy,” he said. “I try to bring a high level of energy to your show. I think rodeo competes with other extreme sports, and I think we’re in a class of entertainment like those.

“When people come to an event, they want to see the level of high energy for the entire two hours they’re there, and that’s what I want to give them.”

postheadericon Hyland reigns as Miss Colorado

Former Miss Rooftop Rodeo serving as state’s ProRodeo ambassador

ESTES PARK, Colo. – The road from Windsor, Colo., to Estes Park is 44 miles long and features many winding turns and tight corners.

Alex Hyland, the former Miss Rooftop Rodeo, returns to Estes Park this July as Miss Rodeo Colorado. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Alex Hyland, the former Miss Rooftop Rodeo, returns to Estes Park this July as Miss Rodeo Colorado. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Alex Hyland knows every bit of it. Six years ago, she was Miss Rooftop Rodeo, the rodeo queen enlisted to serve as ambassador to the event and to the town.

“I like to joke that I learned how to drive with a horse trailer when I was 15, because I would drive up Highway 34 to go to Rooftop Rodeo,” said Hyland, the reigning Miss Rodeo Colorado. “Now I’m a college graduate, so a lot has changed.”

She will return for all six performances of this year’s event, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5-Tuesday, July 10, at Granny May Arena inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds.

“During that time in between, I tried out for Miss Rodeo Colorado three times,” she said. “Each time I tried out, I had my Rooftop Rodeo family in the audience. Not only were they helping me behind the scenes, but they were also there cheering me on.”

They will continue to be her support system as she makes her rounds across the state and the country. In December, Hyland will be one of the state royalty contestants vying for Miss Rodeo America during the pageant in Las Vegas.

“We are extremely proud of Alex and are excited to see her take this next step,” 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 would love nothing more than to see her become the next Miss Rodeo America.”

In the history of the MRA pageant, which dates back to 1956, only five ladies from Colorado have earned the title. The last was Tara (Graham) Rowe in 2001.

“This is not only a dream come true, but it is the best job ever,” Hyland said of the Miss Rodeo Colorado title. “This is something I’ve wanted since I was 8 years old.

“I love traveling to different rodeos and meeting the people who love the sport as much as I do. I love meeting the people who are on the rodeo committees. This is their vacation hours they are putting into this rodeo. It is an incredible, humbling feeling.”

As the state’s ambassador, she will make her way to as many Colorado ProRodeos as her schedule allows. But she will always hold Rooftop Rodeo close to her heart.

“What makes that rodeo so great are the people who are there behind the scenes, the entire committee and the town of Estes Park,” she said. “Plus, there’s not a prettier place to watch a rodeo.

“The atmosphere at Rooftop Rodeo is just incredible. The energy you feel at the begging of that rodeo is just unreal.”

That’s just another reason she’s excited to return.

postheadericon Alsbaugh returns home for rodeo

Linda Alsbaugh, second from left, poses with the 2015 PRCA Secretary of the Year Award with then-Miss Rodeo American Lauren Heaton, Brent Gibson and Lori Orman. Alsbaugh will return to her hometown of Gunnison for the Cattlemen's Days in July.

Linda Alsbaugh, second from left, poses with the 2015 PRCA Secretary of the Year Award with then-Miss Rodeo American Lauren Heaton, Brent Gibson and Lori Orman. Alsbaugh will return to her hometown of Gunnison for the Cattlemen’s Days in July.

GUNNISON, Colo. – Linda Alsbaugh is one of the most respected and appreciated people in professional rodeo.

She’s been around the game for more than 50 years. She’s been named the Secretary of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and in 2012, she and her late husband, Art, received the Donita Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award.

For all but a few years, she has been the face of Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo for thousands of contestants who have made their way to Gunnison. She returns for this year’s festivities, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, to Saturday, July 14, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“It’s always been home,” said Alsbaugh, who grew up in this town and graduated from Gunnison High School in 1961. “It used to be that I could walk down the street, and I knew everybody in town. It’s grown so much that it doesn’t happen like that anymore.”

The town’s population has more than doubled since her childhood. In fact, there are more people living in Gunnison now than lived in the entire county in 1960. The former Linda Gazzoli married into a rodeo family in 1967, and she’s been there ever since.

“Gunnison has changed a lot since I was little,” she said. “It’s grown. When I was growing up, it was a small town, and kids would play in the street. It was a very conservative town.

“We were probably pretty sheltered. We didn’t know much about what was going on in the outside world. I was in high school when we finally got a television. It was just a little isolated because of the mountains.”

She wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. In the late 1950s, she began working as an usher at Cattlemen’s Days, and she has many fond memories of those days. Her father was a rancher until he was injured in a haying accident, then he sold insurance. Her mother was a legal secretary.

“My mother was very good at what she did,” she said. “She retired a couple times before she actually retired, because she just liked the work.”

And maybe that’s where she gets her ability to do so well at her job.

She began her life in rodeo when she married into Art’s family, which ran Alsbaugh Rodeo and produced events across the country. Art ran the operation with his father, Walt, until the latter died in 1992. Linda was there every step of the way. Even in those years when she stayed at their Alamosa, Colo., home taking care of their children, rodeo was very much part of her life.

Art died last August after a battle with cancer, but Linda has continued her life on the rodeo trail.

“It’s one of those things that gets in your blood,” she said about her involvement in the sport. “It’s the people: the contestants and the committees.”

Because of the gypsy lifestyle of the sport, rodeo people are often described as one big family. Alsbaugh is one of the matriarchs of that family, and every July, she has the opportunity to go home.

“Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo is important to me because I’ve been there so many years,” Alsbaugh said. “The people on the committee are wonderful to work with, and, of course, it’s like going home. It’s like they say, ‘You can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.’ Well, I’m a mountain girl.”

postheadericon Carr a big part of Pecos’ history

Two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright rides Pete Carr's Deuces Wild  in Pecos a few years ago. This will be the 136th year for the West of the Pecos Rodeo, the World's Oldest Rodeo. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright rides Pete Carr’s Deuces Wild in Pecos a few years ago. This will be the 136th year for the West of the Pecos Rodeo, the World’s Oldest Rodeo. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

PECOS, Texas – The Western roots of this west Texas community run deep, and the legacy they hold firmly in the drying soil is magnificent.

The volunteers that produce the annual West of the Pecos Rodeo know that better than anybody, and they work hard through the year to showcase it. It will happen again this year with four performances set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 23, at Buck Jackson Arena.

“Our rodeo is celebrating its 136th anniversary this year,” said Brenda McKinney, a longtime member of the committee. “It’s amazing for Pecos, for Reeves County and for the region to be able to have an event that has the history that West of the Pecos has. It’s very humbling to be part of it.”

The World’s First Rodeo is a magical experience, and the committee has been recognized as one of the best in the business. It has been nominated for Large Outdoor Rodeo Committee in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and members are honored by the recognition.

“Just talking about it gives me chill bumps,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be nominated and to be up against all those other great rodeos that are on the list. We are so proud of what we do, but for the cowboys to have nominated us really means the world to me and the rest of the committee.

“I feel like we’re nominated in that group of rodeos because of Pete Carr, his crew and his stock. He helps us get those top-name contestants. Without great stock, the cowboys wouldn’t be able to win what they win here. We are forever grateful to Pete for all he has done for our rodeo.”

The Carr team has been a strong piece of the Pecos community each June for more than a decade. Pete Carr Pro Rodeo is the largest livestock producer in ProRodeo and has received five nominations for PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year. Over the last five yars, he firm also has had more animals selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo than any other producer.

“We have a fabulous relationship with Pete Carr,” McKinney said. “He and his crew are just professional. They make that part of our rodeo so easy for us. They’re so accommodating.

“To work with somebody that’s the caliber of Pete Carr is an honor, and we’re glad he is part of our production.”

That’s an important facet of the rodeo. With such a big variety of events, the Carr team interlaces everything together quite well, giving the fans, sponsors and contestants the best experience possible. This year, rodeo clown and entertainer Cody Sosebee will be a big part of that. He has been nominated for Clown of the Year and Comedy Act of the year, and last year he worked the NFR as the barrelman.

And now he joins all the others in the most historic event in the sport.

“It’s such a huge honor for me to be part of it,” McKinney said. “We’re all just volunteers that want to put on the best production and the best event we can because we’re so proud of what we have.”

They should be proud. Not only does the West of the Pecos Rodeo have a great history, but it’s got an outstanding future, too.

“Because of our tradition, fans can expect a rodeo that’s got the top athletes, both cowboys and cowgirls,” she said. “They can expect to see the best of the best, and we work our tails off all year long to make sure we put on the best for our spectators.”

postheadericon Gunnison TETWP expands transport fleet

Gunnison’s Cattlemen’s Days finds unique ways to give back to community all year through TETWP and new patient transportation vehicle

GUNNISON, Colo. – The Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink board understands what it means to meet the needs of the community beyond the annual rodeo.

Through its efforts over the last 13 years, more than $2 million has been to raise needed equipment and assist those families that are battling breast cancer. But there are more needs that must to be met in the Gunnison Valley throughout the year and future struggles that need to be addressed.

“Members of our committee got invited to a community transportation meeting, and one of the needs that was identified was for patients to get transportation for medical appointments out of town,” said Michael Dawson, a TETWP board member, who pointed to the existing RAM 1500 pickup nicknamed “Tuffy” that has been used for breast cancer patients for the last couple of years to get breast cancer patients to necessary treatments way from their home hospital.

While Tuffy has served the breast cancer community well, the board realized there was a necessity for another vehicle. A second vehicle, a 2018 Dodge Durango nicknamed “Bucky,” has been purchased and will be utilized for other patients and to meet the community needs for all cancer patients.

“It’s being able to serve the entire community,” said Carol Ann May, a TETWP board member who, with her husband, Jim Saindon, donated the money for the Durango. “We just found there was a big need. It makes a big difference in changing people’s lives; sometimes they don’t have the vehicle that can take them to all their trips, and we are grateful to help fill this need.  The TETWP board agreed and gladly signed up for this expansion to their transportation program for local patients.

“I just think it’s a good thing to do for our community to take that one part of angst out of getting to the appointments. TETWP takes care of the gas and vehicle maintenance. Our community members have a safe vehicle to get back and forth to their appointments. If we can do that one thing, then it’s important.”

The fact it’s now available to all cancer patients is unique and special.

“Both Jim and I have had family members that have been impacted by cancer,” May said. “I know what it means when people are struggling and want to be there for their families or relieve the extra burden of how they can make their next appointment. TETWP wants to take as much burden away as possible for our community members suffering through these terrible diseases.”

That’s been the sentiment for most involved in the TETWP campaign since its inception.

“Hopefully we can start getting people safely to where they need to go,” Dawson said. “Our ultimate goal is to get to where all services are here at Gunnison Valley Hospital, but until then, we’re doing everything we can to help cancer patients locally get to the best treatment available.”

May and Saindon also have been instrumental in expanding Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days TETWP reach throughout the year to the community and through all new sports event benefits on the horizon. Their generosity funded a new Tough Enough to Wear Pink wrestling mat for the Gunnison wrestling community. The mat will be used at duels and tournaments for the nationally ranked Western State Colorado University program, at Gunnison High School and on down to the pee-wee and Duster wrestling club for youth in the spring and summer.

“Western State is a constant Division II top 10 contender and engenders a powerhouse wrestling program in our region,” Dawson said. “I’m assistant coach with the Gunnison High School program. This is a pretty big wrestling community, and we wanted to get the kids excited about our awesome 118-year rodeo tradition, our TETWP efforts and get these young athletes energized in raising funds for our community while they compete. Our new motto is ‘Pinning Cancer Every Bout.’

“This is also a celebration for our great organization and to build up momentum for all our wrestling programs to support Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days TETWP. Through the national Tough Enough to Wear Pink platform and our strong Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, we want to extend the reach of our community contribution beyond our July rodeo, just like TETWP did for its Pink in the Rink women’s hockey tournament in October each year.”

The message, and a keen understanding of how much wrestling means to the region, were why May and Saindon got involved with the TETWP wrestling mat program.

“My son was a wrestler when he was in high school, so it made sense to us to be involved in this new and exciting project,” she said. “Putting a wrestling mat together, getting the logo on the mat and doing fundraising through the competitions was something we saw as beneficial to the community.

“I know these mats are permanent things, and with our TETWP logo on the mat and the local wrestlers competing in uniforms with our logos, it would be such a visual thing. I thought it would be a good opportunity to create more awareness within the community, celebrate our success and raise more funds for TETWP.”

It’s a true win-win-win situation for all involved.

The ground-breaking Tuffy transportation program, now expanded with the Bucky vehicle to all cancer patent, together with the Pink in the Rink tournament, shows Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days’ commitment to giving back to its community year-round beyond the annual rodeo celebration and rodeo each July.

Being complacent with success is not an option in this group. The members are always looking to expand the message, reach and, more importantly, give back to the Gunnison community, in line with the TETWP mission. Extending the Gunnison TETWP fundraising platform to the strong wrestling community in Gunnison seems like a natural fit to raise even more funds and give back to even more facets of this special community in the cool Colorado mountains.

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