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postheadericon Hester goes from famine to feast

J.C. Hester rides Cervi Championship Rodeo's Dream Machine for 86.5 points Sunday to take the lead at the Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park, Colo. (PHOTO BY GREG WESTFALL)

J.C. Hester rides Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Dream Machine for 86.5 points Sunday to take the lead at the Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park, Colo. (PHOTO BY GREG WESTFALL)

ESTES PARK, Colo. – When J.C. Hester left Park Rapids, Minn., on Saturday for Estes Park, he reached into his pocket to count his cash.

There wasn’t much there. The Fourth of July run had been rough on the bareback rider, and his bank account was dwindling. He needed to catch a break, and that came Sunday night on a red-and-white paint horse named Dream Machine during the fourth performance of Rooftop Rodeo.

“It had been a long Cowboy Christmas,” said Hester of Queen City, Mo. “I was getting pretty tight on cash. I barely made it out here, but I was 86.5 points, so it was dang sure worth every penny.”

The Cervi Championship Rodeo bucking horse made the 15-hour one-way trip worthwhile for the Missouri cowboy, who took the bareback riding lead in Estes Park. He had never seen the horse before, but he talked to a few others who had matched moves with the animal to get the inside track.

“I knew she was a really nice horse,” he said. “She was definitely worth getting on.”

It was a far cry from the last time Hester competed at Rooftop Rodeo six years ago. That time, he suffered a broken arm and sat out of competition for about three years. Now he’s back at it and is chasing his rodeo dreams. That’s not bad for the Mississippi-raised cowboy who once dreamed of riding bulls.

“We had cows growing up, but rodeo wasn’t part of my family,” Hester said. “I went to Missouri Valley College. I started riding bulls, and here I am riding bareback horses. Ken Mason is a great coach. It’s a great college, and they breed bucking horse riders over there.”

So, what forced him away from bulls and to bucking horses?

“I was winning more money in bareback riding at the time, and I decided I was going to hang my bull rope up. I ended up showing a lot more talent in bareback riding.”

He proved that in Estes Park. Like every cowboy that makes his way up and down the rodeo trail, Hester has dreams of winning the world championship and competing against the greatest in the game at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“Just making a living is my goal this year,” he said. “Rodeo is how I make my money. I dang sure need to be winning, and if going to the finals works out for me at the end of the year, then we’ll be blessed and happy to be there.”

Rooftop Rodeo
Estes Park, Colo.
July 5-10, 2018
Leaders through fourth performance
Bareback riding:
1. J.C. Hester Jr., 86.5 points on Cervi Championship’s Dream Machine; 2. (tie) Jake Brown and Kaycee Feild, 85; 4. Lane McGehee, 83; 5. (tie) Tilden Hooper and Mason Clements, 82; 7. Paden Hurst, 81; 8. Hunter Brasfield, 80.5.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Sam Williams, 3.6 seconds, $1,363; 2. Will Lummus, 3.8, $1,128; 3. Laine Herl, 4.2, $893; 4. (tie) Tom Littell and Cody Devers, 4.3, $541 each; 6. (tie) Trever Nelson and Gary Gilbert, 4.4, $118 each. Second round: 1. Will Lummus, 3.2 seconds; 2. Hunter Cure, 3.7; 3. Cole McNamee, 4.0 seconds; Blake Mindemann, 4.5; 5. Laine Herl, 4.6; 6. Heath Thompson, 4.9. Average: 1. Will Lummus, 7.0 seconds on two runs; 2. Laine Herl, 8.8; 3. Hunter Cure, 9.1; 4. Sam Williams, 10.0; 5. Tom Littell, 10.6; 6. Blake Mindemann, 11.6.

Team roping: 1. Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira, 4.4 seconds; 2. (tie) Jake Barnes/Rich Skelton and Lightning Aguilera/Brady Norman, 4.6; 2. Paul Beckett/Chad Wahlert, 4.7; 3. Kelsey Parchman/Dustin Davis, 5.2; 4. Jake Cooper/Logan Medlin, 5.3; 5. (tie) Rhett Anderson/Coleby Payne and Robert Reed/T.W. Wilson, 5.7.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Wyatt Hageman, 86 points on Cervi Brothers’ Hell’s Fire Hostage; 2. (tie) Hardy Braden and Sterling Crawley, 83; 4. (tie) Troy Crowser and Chase Brooks, 82.5; 6. Jacobs Crawley, 82; 7. Colt Gordon, 81.5; 8. Jake Watson, 81.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Reno Gonzales, 8.4 seconds, $1,176; 2. Jesse Clark, 9.4, $973; 3. Scott Kormos, 10.2, $771; 4. Anthony Jordan, 10.6, $568; 5. Joey Dickens, 10.7, $365; 6. Caleb Smidt, 10.9, $203. Second round: 1. Bryson Sechrist, 8.8 seconds; 2. Sterling Smith, 9.6; 3. Anthony Jordan, 10.2; 4. Cimarron Boardman, 10.9; 5. Joey Dickens, 11.4; 6. Tyson Aldredge, 17.7. Average: 1. Bryson Sechrist, 20.4 seconds on two runs; 2. Anthony Jordan, 20.8; 3. Sterling Smith, 21.4; 4. Joey Dickens, 22.1; Cimarron Boardman, 22.3; 6. Trevor Thiel, 37.7.

Barrel racing: 1. Lacinda Rose, 17.39 seconds; 2. Leia Bluemer, 17.43; 3. (tie) Heidi Tillard and Kelley Carrington, 17.47; 5. Sammi Bessert, 17.49; 6. Jaime Merrill, 17.53; 7. Kaylee Burnett, 17.63; 7. (tie) Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Jamie Wilson, 17.65; 9. Christine Laughlin and Amanda Harris, 17.70.

Bull riding: 1. Callum Miller, on 4L and Diamond S Ranch’s Living After Midnight, and Scottie Knapp, on 4L and Diamond S Ranch’s Monte Walsh, 89 points each; 3. Clayton Savage, 88; 4. Kyle Gardner, 85; 5. Reid Barker, 84.5; 6. Jimy Marten, 82.5; 7. Moody McCoy, 77; 8. Colten Fritzian, 75.5.

postheadericon Aguilera, Norman move into a tie

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Each night at Rooftop Rodeo, a community member hands the winners of every event a fresh $100 bill.

The fastest times and highest scores in each event for each of the six performances are rewarded with a little token to show the appreciation the town has for the cowboys and cowgirls that make their way to Estes Park every July.

For Lightning Aguilera and Brady Norman, that money marked the end of a long drought on the rodeo trail. They had the fastest team roping run on Saturday night, so they each had a sly smile as they walked their horses out of the arena holding matching $100 bills.

“This money is great,” said Norman of Springer, Okla. “It’s been a long two weeks. We haven’t had much luck, so this $100 will go a long ways.”

So will the tandem’s 4.6-second run, which puts them in a tie for first place with world champions Jake Barnes and Rich Skelton, who posted the same time during Thursday’s competition.

“I was trying to be as fast as I could without messing up,” said Aguilera of Athens, Texas. “That steer came to the left, and it worked out really good.”

Yes, it did. If they are able to hold their position through the final three performances of Rooftop Rodeo, each man could walk away from this spectacular mountain community with nearly $4,000. That would go a long ways toward healing their road weariness.

“They ran that steer in Cody (Wyo.) earlier in the week,” Norman said. “He was supposed to be a little stronger, but there were a few that were supposed to run that were really good today. Maybe that rain we got before the rodeo cooled them off just right for us.”

This marks the first year that the duo has teamed together, and it’s working out fairly well.

“It’s been great,” Aguilera said. “Brady is really easy to get along with and ropes extremely good.”

Now they have a chance to own at a share of the Rooftop Rodeo title.

“Estes Park is one of the coolest places we get to come to rodeo,” Norman said. “You really can’t beat it.”

His partner agreed.

“This is my third year coming to Estes Park, and it’s always awesome,” Aguilera said. “We don’t make another run until Wednesday in Casper (Wyo.), so we have a little time that we can hang out and enjoy Estes Park. The hospitality around here is great, so you can see why it’s been Rodeo of the Year.”

Rooftop Rodeo
Estes Park, Colo.
July 5-10, 2018
Leaders through second performance
Bareback riding:
1. (tie) Jake Brown, on Cervi Rodeo’s Fire’s Easy, and Kaycee Feild, on Cervie Championship’s Commander, 85 points each; 2. Lane McGehee, 83; 3. (tie) Tilden Hooper and Mason Clements, 82; 5. Paden Hurst, 871; 6. Kelly Timberman, 78.5; 7. Jamie Howlett, 78; 8. (tie) Tilmon Moore and Levi Nicholson, 75.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Sam Williams, 3.6 seconds, $1,363; 2. Will Lummus, 3.8, $1,128; 3. Laine Herl, 4.2, $893; 4. (tie) Tom Littell and Cody Devers, 4.3, $541 each; 6. (tie) Trever Nelson and Gary Gilbert, 4.4, $118 each. Second round: 1. Will Lummus, 3.2 seconds; 2. Hunter Cure, 3.7; 3. Cole McNamee, 4.0 seconds; Blake Mindemann, 4.5; 5. Laine Herl, 4.6; 6. Heath Thompson, 4.9. Average: 1. Will Lummus, 7.0 seconds on two runs; 2. Laine Herl, 8.8; 3. Hunter Cure, 9.1; 4. Sam Williams, 10.0; 5. Tom Littell, 10.6; 6. Blake Mindemann, 11.6.

Team roping: 1. (tie) Jake Barnes/Rich Skelton and Lightning Aguilera/Brady Norman, 4.6 seconds; 2. Paul Beckett/Chad Wahlert, 4.7; 3. Kelsey Parchman/Dustin Davis, 5.2; 4. Jake Cooper/Logan Medlin, 5.3; 5. (tie) Rhett Anderson/Coleby Payne and Robert Reed/T.W. Wilson, 5.7.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Wyatt Hageman, 86 points on Cervi Brothers’ Hell’s Fire Hostage; 2. (tie) Hardy Braden and Sterling Crawley, 83; 4. Troy Crowser, 82.5; 5. Jacobs Crawley, 82; 6. Colt Gordon, 81.5; 7. Tanner Lockhart, 77.5; 8. Spencer Wright, 77.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Reno Gonzales, 8.4 seconds, $1,176; 2. Jesse Clark, 9.4, $973; 3. Scott Kormos, 10.2, $771; 4. Anthony Jordan, 10.6, $568; 5. Joey Dickens, 10.78, $365; 6. Caleb Smidt, 10.9, $203. Second round: 1. Sterling Smith, 9.6 seconds; 2. Tyson Aldredge, 17.7; 3. Blane Cox, 18.2; 4. Trevor Thiel, 19.3; 5. Blair Burk, 19.7; 6. Joe James, 20.1. Average: 1. Sterling Smith, 21.4 seconds on two runs; 2. Trevor Thiel, 37.7; 3. Blair Burk, 41.8; 4. Reno Gonzales, 8.4; 5. Jesse Clark, 9.4; 6. Scott Kormos, 10.2.

Barrel racing: 1. Leia Bluemer, 17.43 seconds; 2. (tie) Heidi Tillard and Kelley Carrington, 17.47; 4. Sammi Bessert, 17.49; 5. Jaime Merrill, 17.53; 6. Kaylee Burnett, 17,63; 7. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 17.65; 8. Andrea Busby, 17.77; 9. Rachel Pozzi, 17.82; 10. Joy McDaniel, 17.93.

Bull riding: 1. Callum Miller, 89 points on 4L and Diamond S Ranch’s Living After Midnight; 2. Kyle Gardner, 85; 3. Reid Barker, 84.5; 4. Jimy Marten, 82.5; 5. Moody McCoy, 77; 6. Colten Fritzian, 75.5; 7. Toby Collins, 72; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Lummus’ 3.2 ties Rooftop record

Will Lummus wrestles his steer in an  arena record-tying 3.2 seconds on Friday night to take the bulldogging lead at Rooftop Rodeo. (PHOTO BY GREG WESTFALL)

Will Lummus wrestles his steer in an arena record-tying 3.2 seconds on Friday night to take the bulldogging lead at Rooftop Rodeo. (PHOTO BY GREG WESTFALL)

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Sometimes it pays to know the competition. That’s why championship teams scout their opponents, and it’s why rodeo cowboys pay attention to the animals they’ve drawn.

Will Lummus knew the steer on which he competed Friday night at Rooftop Rodeo was good. Sam Williams won the first round with a 3.6-second run, and another cowboy was fast that same steer on Thursday night.

But nobody’s been faster this week in Estes Park than Lummus, who grappled the animal to the ground in 3.2 seconds to take the second-round and aggregate leads at Rooftop Rodeo. He even tied an arena record, matching the same time set by John Lowry in 1976 and Chad Hagan in 2002.

“That was the fastest steer I’ve ever thrown,” said Lummus of West Point, Miss. “I was 3.3 in Jackson, Miss., last year, so this was cool. Last year here, I was 4.5 on both steers and didn’t win anything. I like Estes Park. It’s an awesome place to be. They have always had good steers, and just the environment …

“I’m from Mississippi, and we don’t have mountains. Everywhere you go around here, the scenery is beautiful. There’s great cattle, a great committee; this is a great place to have a rodeo with great fans. It’s a wonderful place to be.”

He also got some big-time assistance from his traveling partner, K.C. Jones, a nine-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Decatur, Texas. Jones served as the hazer, while Lummus rode Jones’ horse, Tebow.

“That horse is 21 years old and doesn’t look like it,” Lummus said. “That’s actually the first steer I’ve run on him this y ear. We felt like this setup fit Tebow better, and it worked out great.

“Great horse, great hazer and a great hazing horse, Ava. It all came together well.

Jake Brown

Jake Brown

It also came together for bareback rider Jake Brown, a three-time NFR qualifier from Cleveland, Texas. The reigning Rooftop Rodeo champion, has earned more than $67,500 so far this season and sits fourth in the world standings. He’s ever so close to clinching his fourth straight trip to Las Vegas in December, home of ProRodeo’s grand finale.

“This rodeo’s huge,” Brown said after his 85-point ride on Cervi Rodeo’s Fire’s Easy, which moved him into the lead. “I got the win last year, and I was blessed. I won over $6,000. That’s a big chuck over what it takes to get to the NFR. If I get the win here this year, I think I’d be pretty comfortable and think I’d almost made the NFR before the end of July.”

Only the top 15 advance to the season grand championship, the sport’s richest rodeo. It’s a big deal to be playing for the biggest money when December arrives. Having success in Estes Park has been a big part of why he’s played on rodeo’s biggest stages.

“It’s just awesome here,” he said of Estes Park, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in every direction. “It’s great added money, great horses and beautiful weather. The hospitality is awesome.

“This has been a good rodeo to me, and that’s why I keep coming back here from year to year.”

Rooftop Rodeo
Estes Park, Colo.
July 5-10, 2018
Leaders through second performance
Bareback riding:
1. Jake Brown, 85 points on Cervi Rodeo’s Fire’s Easy; 2. Lane McGehee, 83; 3. Kelly Timberman, 78.5; 4. (tie) Tilmon Moore and Levi Nicholson, 75; 6. Zach Hibler, 74; 7. Bryton John Byert, 71; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Sam Williams, 3.6 seconds, $1,363; 2. Will Lummus, 3.8, $1,128; 3. Laine Herl, 4.2, $893; 4. (tie) Tom Littell and Cody Devers, 4.3, $541 each; 6. (tie) Trever Nelson and Gary Gilbert, 4.4, $118 each. Second round: 1. Will Lummus, 3.2 seconds; 2. Cole McNamee, 4.0 seconds; 3. Laine Herl, 4.6; 4. Heath Thompson, 4.9; 5. Joe Buffington, 6.1; 6. Tom Littell, 6.3. Average: 1. Will Lummus, 7.0 seconds on two runs; 2. Laine Herl, 8.8; 3. Sam Williams, 10.0; 4. Tom Littell, 10.6; 5. Logan McDonald, 15.3; 6. Darrel Petry, 26.0.

Team roping: 1. Jake Barnes/Rich Skelton, 4.6 seconds; 2. Paul Beckett/Chad Wahlert, 4.7; 3. Rhett Anderson/Coleby Payne, 5.7; 4. Stratton Lopez/Krece Harris, 5.8; 5. Cole Cooper/J.C. Flake, 5.9; 6. Cyle Denison/Lane Siggins.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Hardy Braden, 83 points on Cervi Brothers’ Silence of the Lambs; 2. Colt Gordon, 81.5; 3. Tanner Lockhart, 77.5; 4. Spencer Wright, 77; 5. Dawson Hay, 71; 6. Toby Collins, 70; 7. Ryder Wright, 69; 8. (tie) Parker Kempfer and Shanse Darling, 67.

Tie-down roping: 1. Reno Gonzales, 8.4 seconds; 2. Jesse Clark, 9.4; 3. Scott Kormos, 10.2; 4. Anthony Jordan, 10.6; 5. Joey Dickens, 10.78; 6. Caleb Smidt, 10.9; 7. Cimarron Boardman, 11.4; 8. Bryson Sechrist, 11.6.

Barrel racing: 1. Heidi Tillard, 17.47 seconds; 2. Jaime Merrill, 17.53; 3. Andrea Busby, 17.77; 4. Rachel Pozzi, 17.82; 5. Amanda Devencenty, 18.05; 6. (tie) Callie Colten and Paige Wiseman, 18.15; 8. Amy Smith, 18.19; 9. Lauren Guntle, 18.56; 10. Lindy James, 18.63.

Bull riding: 1. Kyle Gardner, 85 points on Cervi Brothers Rodeo’s Birthday Suit; 2. Reid Barker, 84.5; 3. Jimy Marten, 82.5; 4. Moody McCoy, 77; 5. Colten Fritzian, 75.5; 6. Toby Collins, 72; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Gordon rides to Rooftop lead

Colt Gordon of Comanche, Okla., rides Cervi's The Natural for 81.5 points to take the lead in saddle bronc riding at Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park, Colo. (GREG WESTFALL PHOTO)

Colt Gordon of Comanche, Okla., rides Cervi’s The Natural for 81.5 points to take the lead in saddle bronc riding at Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park, Colo. (GREG WESTFALL PHOTO)

ESTES PARK, Colo. – For a good portion of the ProRodeo season, Colt Gordon was one of the best saddle bronc riders in the game.

He was among the top 15 in the world standings and was making a name for himself.

“I was having really good luck for a while, but then I had some saddle troubles,” said Gordon of Comanche, Okla. “I just got a good saddle, and it’s starting to click again. I’m chasing and trying to get caught back up in the top 15.”

He might just be making that move after Thursday night’s opening performance of the Rooftop Rodeo. Gordon rode Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix The Natural for 81.5 points to take the early lead. Now he’s hoping that momentum will carry him through the final three months of the regular season.

“I knew he was supposed to be a good horse, because they took him to Waco (Texas) for the All American Finals,” he said. “He was really good.”

And it proved that Gordon’s saddle was in good shape. Having saddle issues is a problem in most rodeo events, but especially bronc riding. Cowboys ride a specially designed saddle with the stirrups set forward to allow the classic spurring motion from the front of the horse’s shoulders, sweeping down and back to the cantle of the saddle.

Then they must do that in rhythm with the horse’s bucking motion, so having solid equipment is imperative.

“Confidence is everything,” he said. “That was a big confidence builder, getting on a horse like that and being able to put on a good ride. Going through those saddle troubles, it sure helps to have a good ride like that.”

Gordon sits 21st in the world standings with a little more than $27,000 in season earnings. Finishing among the top 15 when the regular season concludes, though, would be a dream come true; only the top 15 contestants in each event advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“I’d like to go to the finals this year, or at least give it a good shot at making the finals,” he said. “I need to be more consistent to do that, though. I’m hoping this is what I need to get back on that track.”

Of course, doing well in Estes Park has its benefits. Last year’s bronc riding champion earned more than $5,300 for his work in this Colorado mountain resort town. Rooftop Rodeo has been named Rodeo of the Year six times in its nine decades of existence.

“It’s beautiful around here, and it’s a sweet rodeo,” Gordon said. “You don’t get to rodeo in this kind of weather, especially in Oklahoma. It’s 122 degrees at my house right now, so this is cool and wonderful.

“The hospitality is awesome, and Estes Park is one of the best rodeos as far as hospitality that there is.”

Rooftop Rodeo
Estes Park, Colo.
July 5-10, 2018
Leaders through first performance
Bareback riding:
1. Tilmon Moore, 75 points on Cervi Brothers Rodeo’s Avalene; 2. Bryton John Byert, 71; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Sam Williams, 3.6 seconds; 2. Will Lummus, 3.8; 3. Laine Herl, 4.2, 4.2; 4. (tie) Tom Littell and Cody Devers, 4.3; 6. (tie) Trever Nelson and Gary Gilbert, 4.4; 8. Logan McDonald, 4.5. Second round: 1. Cole McNamee, 4.0 seconds; 2. Heath Thompson, 4.9; 3. Joe Buffington, 6.1; 4. Wyatt Johnson, 9.0; 5. Logan McDonald, 10.8; 6. Dane Browning, 13.7; 7. Darrel Petry, 14.7; no other qualified runs. Average: 1. Logan McDonald, 15.3 seconds on two runs; 2. Darrel Petry, 26.0; 3. Sam Williams, 3.6 seconds on one run; 4. Will Lummus, 3.8; 5. Cole McNamee, 4.0; 6. Laine Herl, 4.2; 7. Tim Littell, 4.3.

Team roping: 1. Jake Barnes/Rich Skelton, 4.6 seconds; 2. Paul Beckett/Chad Wahlert, 4.7; 3. Cole Cooper/J.C. Flake, 5.9; 4. Jake Campbell/Luke Baumann, 17.6; no other qualified runs.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Colt Gordon, 81.5 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix The Natural; 2. Spencer Wright, 77; 3. Dawson Hay, 71; 4. Toby Collins, 70; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping: 1. Reno Gonzales, 8.4 seconds; 2. Jesse Clark, 9.4; 3. Scott Kormos, 10.2; 4. Anthony Jordan, 10.6; 5. Joey Dickents, 10.78; 6. Caleb Smidt, 10.9; 7. Cimarron Boardman, 11.4; 8. Bryson Sechrist, 11.6.

Barrel racing: 1. (tie) Callie Colten and Paige Wiseman, 18.15 seconds; 3. Amy Smith, 18.19; 4. Ann Peterson, 19.88; 5. Skyla Whitters, 22.89; 6. Kate Spauer, 23.55; no other qualified runs.

Bull riding: 1. Kyle Gardner, 85 points on Cervi Brothers Rodeo’s Birthday Suit; 2. Jimy Marten, 82.5; 3. Moody McCoy, 77; 4. Colten Fritzian, 75.5; 5. Toby Collins, 72; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Saddle Up offers group a fair insight

EAGLE, Colo. – Organizers of the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo are always looking for more ways to give back to the community.

Enter the Saddle Up Program, which benefits non-profits in the Eagle area. Each year, non-profit groups apply to be part of the program, and one is selected. This year, people who are part of the Eagle River Youth Coalition will be able to enjoy a barbecue on Thursday, July 26, and will have tickets provided to them for either the Wednesday, July 25, or Thursday performances of the PRCA rodeo.

“We saw this as an opportunity to achieve two goals,” said Michelle Stecher, executive director of the coalition. “One we expose local youth and families to the fair experience that they may not have had another opportunity to be part of that.

“Our second main goal is to use this as an opportunity to bring together the people that use our services and those who support our services. It’s unique for us; we haven’t had very many opportunities to do that.”

The organization’s purpose is making youth a community priority, and it does so by collaborating with Eagle River youth-serving organizations to assess prevention needs, coordinate substance abuse-reduction efforts and build capacity through strategic plans, programs and policies around the issues facing young people.

Now those who are associated with the coalition will have that chance to take in all that is offered at the fair and rodeo, set for Wednesday, July 25-Saturday, July 28, at the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

“The Saddle Up Program is a great way to get another group of people involved in the rodeo and to give an experience to people who might not otherwise be able to attend,” said Hanna Albertson, chairwoman of the fair and rodeo advisory council.

Stecher said there are about 4,000 people impacted by the coalition. That’s a positive step for all in Eagle County.

“We work a lot with other providers, anybody that is interacting with youth or supportive people involved in the community,” she said. “We invest really heavily in parent and family education. We work with prevention programs in the schools. We do a lot of work to increase the youth voice in the community.”

Because of the Saddle Up Program, there is an opportunity to raise awareness about the coalition and also to help those associated with it know more about the community and the region’s legacy through the eyes of a fairgoer.

“A lot of people we interact with know one or two things we do really well, but that’s it,” Stecher said. “This also lets them know what’s going on at the fair and rodeo. A lot of folks that live here don’t understand the heritage of the area. We’re really excited about raising awareness for that.”

postheadericon Expo to honor ranching history

A large crowd is expected during the three performances of the Gunnison Cattlemen's Days PRCA Rodeo. Cattlemen's Days serves as a tip of the hat to the ranching history in the Gunnison Valley.

A large crowd is expected during the three performances of the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo. Cattlemen’s Days serves as a tip of the hat to the ranching history in the Gunnison Valley.

GUNNISON, Colo. – There is a rich heritage that surges all across the Gunnison Valley.

For nearly 140 years, this has been home to families that raise livestock. It’s that type of legacy that has contributed to the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration, set for Friday, June 6-Sunday, July 15, at the Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“We want to pay tribute to the local ranchers, those families that have been the foundation of Gunnison County for generations,” said Kevin Coblentz, president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee that produces the annual event. “We are taking a look back and returning to our roots.

“We have such a strong history in ranching in this part of Colorado. We know we need to honor that.”

Cattlemen’s Days is Colorado’s hidden gem, because it is real Americana. In days where video games have become more common than playing outside, the exposition offers a glimpse of the work and rewards that have come from ranching families.

After all, there are many pieces to the Cattlemen’s Days puzzle that directly reflect on the ranching industry.

“We’ve got the Watershed ranch rodeo, Watershed team ranch sorting and Watershed team roping and barrel racing that are a real reflection of life on a ranch,” Coblentz said. “You have the livestock shows and our FFA Junior Livestock Auction, which is always a big deal.

“Of course, we’re very proud of the PRCA rodeo, where we’ll draw many of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the sport to our little town every year.”

There’s a great deal of which Coblentz, the Cattlemen’s Days committee and the community can be proud. The exposition features 10 days full of activities and fun.

“We have over a century of history with Cattlemen’s Days, but who we are dates back further than that,” he said. “Since the 1880s, ranching has been the life-blood of this community, and that continues to this day.”

From the horse show opening the festivities on July 6 to the Cattlemen’s Days Open Jackpot Team Roping closing them on July 15, there are many activities in between. There are dances, concerts and the carnival to go along with every livestock show and rodeo performance.

All that combined is the perfect celebration for this picturesque, ranching community.

postheadericon Volunteers make Roundup happen

Dr. R.C. Trotter leads a large contingent of volunteers to produce the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo each year.

Dr. R.C. Trotter leads a large contingent of volunteers to produce the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo each year.

DODGE CITY, Kan. – It takes a small village to produce something as magnificent as Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

With six days of world-class competition and a well-respected brand of entertainment, it takes many hands and many hearts to produce the biggest ProRodeo in Kansas. This year’s championship is 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.

“Virtually everything that happens here is done by a volunteer in some capacity,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the committee that produces the annual event. “We have 200 volunteers work each performance.

“But that doesn’t reflect all the work it takes leading up to those six days of competition. There is work to be done around the facility, preparing for concessions, planning and working with sponsors. One of the big reasons we’re successful is because we have a big pool of volunteers to make it happen.”

And Roundup has a history of success. Nine times it has been selected as the Rodeo of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In 2012, Roundup Rodeo was enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

In addition, Roundup utilizes local civic groups to assist in the process, then provides payments to those groups to help them with their ventures.

“This is a whole community celebration,” said Joel Redman, Roundup’s vice president. “We are a non-profit, so any money we make goes right back to those organizations in various ways. We’re putting on our rodeo for the sport and for the good of the event, and that’s trying to make it the best for our community.

“We’re always giving back to the community.”

But it’s not without labor. During rodeo week alone, dozens of volunteers spend nearly every waking hour either at Roundup Arena or doing something on behalf of the rodeo. Each morning begins with the first round of timed-event competition. Oftentimes, that progresses into the heat of an August day in western Kansas.

Then it’s time to return each evening to put on the kind of rodeo that entertains thousands of fans while producing a world-class event that features the very best that ProRodeo offers.

“There are some very long days in there, and by the end of the week, we’re all hot and tired,” Trotter said. “But that’s also the reward, because we all love doing this, and we look forward to it every year.

“We want to put on the best rodeo and offer everyone involved – the contestants, sponsors and fans – the best experience they can get.”

postheadericon Organization celebrated

The Trampe family completed the last of three conservation easements in April 2018. The Trampe Ranch has been family owned for more than 100 years. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GUNNISON RANCHLAND CONSERVATION LEGACY)

The Trampe family completed the last of three conservation easements in April 2018. The Trampe Ranch has been family owned for more than 100 years. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GUNNISON RANCHLAND CONSERVATION LEGACY)

Cattlemen’s Days to honor Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy on July 14 during the final performance of this year’s PRCA Rodeo

GUNNISON, Colo. – The lives of ranchers aren’t easy. Early mornings and late nights tending to living beings.

Whether its haying season in the summer or cold, blustery days in the winter when the snow is two feet deep, the animals still need care. It’s a passion, really. It’s an understanding of what it takes to care for the animals and this land.

The Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy knows that. The non-profit organization acts on behalf of landowners in helping ranching families protect their lands with conservation easements.

“We have protected more than 36,000 acres of ranchland in the upper Gunnison basin since 1995,” said Stacy McPhail, the GRCL’s executive director. “We want to keep ranching part of our community despite the pressures that come from development.”

It’s vital to the Gunnison Valley. The community has a strong agricultural base, with ranching serving as its life-blood for many decades. The volunteers that organize the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration will honor the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy during its final performance of this year’s PRCA rodeo, Saturday, July 14, at the Fred Field Western Center.

“For all they have been doing over the past two decades for ranch families in the Gunnison Valley, we wanted to honor the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy,” said Kevin Coblentz, president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee. “Honoring them fits right in line with our Tough Enough to Wear Pink night on Thursday and our Patriot Night on Friday.

“We want to raise awareness for things that are important to this community.”

That is the case with the GRCL. The organization was founded in 1996 by Bill Trampe and Susan Lohr. Trampe is an area rancher, while Lohr is the former director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

Together they began looking for opportunities and services that a traditional land trust might offer to ranch families. With that, they realized the best way to protect local agriculture was to keep families on the land by raising funds necessary to purchase conservation easements.

The organization helps landowners assess their needs and future plans, find an appropriate land trust, obtain funding to pay for conservation easements and complete legal and technical aspects of the transaction. The GRCL also promotes awareness about ranching, while also encouraging policies that support ranching in Gunnison through its outreach program, Gunnison Valley Ranching.

“It helps keep the ranches here in the valley stable for future generations,” McPhail said. “We’re landowner advocates. We’re a really trusted source for landowners. Our board members are all part of the community. We help landowners get through the process and help find funding and resources.

“It’s important to the community because everyone who lives here enjoys the landscape. Keeping the lands intact is what the community has strived for. We’ve watched other mountain towns change and grow. We want to control, as a community, the benefits and the resources that it gives us. It gives us a community of longstanding citizens.”

Because of those roots, there is a strong correlation between the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy and Cattlemen’s Days. That’s why she and others associated with the organization are excited to be part of that final performance of the rodeo.

“With something as traditional as Cattlemen’s Days, it’s recognizes ranching but also that there is a future in ranching,” she said. “Honoring the 140 years of ranch families is an important thing to recognize. The future looks a lot brighter in what we call as caring for the land so that agriculture stays in the valley for the future.”

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.”

CODY CONTESTANTS
Dusty Tuckness
Weston Rutkowski
Justin Josey
Kris Furr
Tate Rhoads

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