Rodeo kicks off summer in Steamboat |

Rodeo kicks off summer in Steamboat

Saturday event will include family friendly gymkhana

— Members of the Routt County 4-H Youth Exchange are intent on returning the hospitality they experienced last summer in Tennessee.

The group will host the Northwest Family Ranch Rodeo on Saturday at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat Springs. The rodeo will include a family friendly gymkhana from 10 a.m. to noon, and a ranch rodeo from 1 to 5 p.m.

The goal is to raise funds to help defray the expenses of a return visit from the 4-H youngsters who hosted their Steamboat counterparts in the Nashville area last summer.

"They are coming here at the end of June to learn our way of life," event organizer Shari Yeager said. "We want to limit their out-of-pocket expenses. We visited them last summer in Springville, Tenn., and they took us to the Grand Ole Opry."

Although all of the exchange participants are 4-H members, the idea of the exchange isn't to send ranch children to visit farm children, Yeager said. Instead, it's to send urban 4-H members to the country to see how the other half lives and vice versa. Previous 4-H Youth Exchange participants have been struck by how remote Routt County is, she said.

Joe Long, 18, who spent a week in Tennessee last summer, said his family would host a 4-H exchange member this month. He plans to take his guest horseback riding in the sagebrush near Twentymile Road.

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Long said he was struck by how different agricultural practices are in Tennessee from what he is accustomed to in Northwest Colorado. Farmers there have more crops and fewer livestock, he said.

Long also made the mistake of wearing his usual summer attire of long jeans and long-sleeved shirts in the hot, muggy Tennessee summer.

The cost to enter the gymkhana is $5 per event, and entries are open to all children in four competitive age groups. The goal is to introduce younger riders to competitive horse events and give them the motivation to tackle a ranch rodeo in the future, Yeager said.

Gymkhana events will include barrel racing, pole bending (like a slalom race on horseback), and the stake-in-the-bucket competition.

The ranch rodeo involves teams of four people, which must include one female and a child age 8 to 16. The fee is $50 per person. The events include calf roping and a branding event in which whitewash is used in place of a hot iron. Contestants will be required to sort cattle and "rescue" a cowboy while on horseback.

Participation is limited, and interested people should call Yeager at 846-2460.

The rodeo arena concession stand will be open during Saturday's ranch rodeo.