[July 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]
by Erin Stadelman
THE COUNTY FAIRS AND THE SPORT OF RODEO are a family-friendly, generation-gathering event that can be enjoyed in most of the counties in Western Colorado. The annual summer ‘thrill rides’ take place in San Miguel, Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, and Ouray counties. All of the excitement is spread out over the summer season, so that no one misses the opportunity to ‘whoop’ it up at the Fair & Rodeo.
While the local competition among the pie bakers and blanket weavers is not to be missed, the Rodeo is usually the Big Draw for spectators. Both the animal and human athletes train very hard to prepare and produce an amazing show for everyone to enjoy. The animal athletes totally support the efforts of their human counterparts and vice versa. The ‘larger than life’ bucking horses and bulls may seem (to some) to be abused, neglected, and mistreated. That thought could not be further from the truth.
The animal athletes of Pro Rodeo are actually quite spoiled. They are never lacking for water, shelter, or food. As a matter of fact, the bulls are often fed twice a day to keep them healthy and happy. I have had the opportunity to assist in the care of the Rodeo Roughstock in Ouray County, and they do not lack for attention. The bucking horses are often petted and loved on while the bulls won’t allow you out of the holding pen until each of them receives a good scratching between the ears. These animals are performers. They arrive at the Rodeo with one job, make the human work for his/her points. While napping in the holding pens, they are all very docile and quiet. When it is their turn, their heads pop up, their muscles tighten, and the adrenaline flows. They get excited, too. They love to buck–if they are horses or bulls. They love to run–if they are roping steers. They love to show off–all of them. It would be the antics of the Roughstock that keep most of the spectators in their seats.
The show of Rodeo could not be conducted without the human athletes, either. A Rodeo spectator revels at the sight of the beautiful barrel racers, with their shiny spurs and flashy shirts. The barrel racers are the Beauties of the Rodeo. There is truly nothing more exhilarating than running a well-conditioned, gorgeous horse ‘wide open’ for 12-17 seconds. These female athletes love what they do and it shows. The strength and tenacity of the bronc and bull riders is indescribable. These young men (and occasionally women) go into a ‘zone’ to prepare to take on the Roughstock. I have not seen any other athlete with as much ‘grit’ as a Roughstock rider. The elegant dance between roping horse and roper is something to be admired. There is an absolute level of trust and understanding between the two, unsurpassed in any other sport. They hear each other speak without saying a word. A great rope horse will understand the direction before it is given. The two have a dance routine honed over many years of training. The unyielding level of competition at the Rodeo keeps everyone in their seats, too.
As the summer in Western Colorado presents its beautiful ballad of Festival, Fairs, and Rodeos, don’t miss out. Bring your kids, grandparents, grandchildren, and even your mother-in-law out to ‘whoop’ it up and have Family Fun Day at the Local County Fairs & Rodeos.