Chutes fly open on summer as 2023 Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo gets rolling

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series opens for the summer at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. Longtime rodeo announcer John Shipley said that this weekend's lineup of bull riders is one of the best he's ever seen in Steamboat.
Joel Reichenberger

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series will fly out of the chutes this weekend with one of the largest and deepest lineups of bull riders that longtime rodeo announcer and board president John Shipley can remember.

“It’s going be as good a bull riding as there’s ever been here,” Shipley said. “There are probably nine of the top-25 in the world, and I think there’s half of the top-15, which are the number that go to the National Finals Rodeo.”

Shipley said the top bull riders are being drawn to Steamboat Springs with hopes of cashing in on the added money prize for the summer’s first rodeo. On Friday and Saturday, the top rider will earn 40% of the purse, which is a combination of the entry fees paid by the cowboys and the added money that comes from the Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series organization.

Shipley said in the past the rodeo has paid the top qualified ride 40% with the second qualified ride getting 30%, the third getting 20% and the fourth getting 10%. In rodeos where there are less than four qualified rides, the unclaimed money, called ground money, is split between the top riders.

Last year Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series officials decided that instead of paying out the ground money, it would be used to increase the purse for the next rodeo. Shipley explained that means that the bull riders competing this weekend will be competing for an additional $9,640 carried over from last season.

Shipley said the prize money has attracted a group of top bull riders slated to compete. On Friday, the field will include Josh Frost, currently ranked third, Sage Kimzey (ranked seventh), Trevor Reiste (10th), Ernie Courson, Jr. (11th) and 15th-ranked J.C. Mortensen. The field also includes Kase Hitt (23rd) and 2022 Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series Champion Garrett Upton of Craig. On Saturday, the field will include Jeff Askey (ranked fifth), Cody Teel (13th) and Trey Benton III, ranked No. 16.

In addition to the chance to see some of the best bull riders in the world during three sessions of bull riding, this weekend’s openers will offer plenty of other action. Opening ceremonies will be followed by permit bull riding, team roping, bareback, steer wrestling, calf scramble, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, ram scramble, regional team roping and barrel racing (including junior, peewee and bull riding), which will be broken into three sessions.

With the large number of top card-holding bull riders competing, that competition will be broken into two sessions, with barrel racing in between.

“We’ve got 20 card holders each night, which is too many to run all at once,” Shipley said.

Friday will be the first rodeo performance of 22 this summer. Those performances will be spread out over 11 rodeos starting Friday and running through the finals on Aug. 25-26. This year the added money was increased from $114,125 to more than $228,250. The rodeo has also added 116 premium seats. The Casa Bonita Gold Buckle Seats are expected to offer great views and are located between the chutes and the metal grandstand.

The rodeo takes place at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, 401 Howelsen Parkway, and begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. Tickets in the covered grandstand are $25 for adults and children 7-15 and free for children 6 and younger. Uncovered seating is $20 for adults, $10 for children 7-15 and free for children 6 and younger. Seating in the Casa Bonita Gold Buckle Seats is $50. There will be special pricing for the Fourth of July.

Shipley, who has been involved with the rodeo for 35 years, said opening night is always special and is the culmination of a year of work that began after last year’s final performance.

“The committee has worked on this nonstop since we since we dropped the curtain on the last one in August,” Shipley said. “There’s just so many things to do, and everybody worked hard and the whole success of this series is due to countless people putting in tremendous effort over the past 35 years to make it what it is. It’s an overnight success, but we have worked three-and-a-half decades for it.”

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