Routt County looking to introduce Winter Series Rodeo in Hayden |

Hayden man proposes Winter Series Rodeo at Routt County fairgrounds

Journey Freeman rides his bull during a bull riding event at the 2017 Routt County Fair in Hayden. Donnie Hayes is looking to bring an indoor rodeo event to the fairgrounds during the winters. (Photo by Joel Reichenberger)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The winter season is a quiet one for rodeo competitors in Northwest Colorado.

A blanket of snow creates a Nordic skiing course over Brent Romick Arena in Steamboat Springs, so the riders who hope to keep their skills fresh travel to Rock Springs, Wyoming, for its bi-monthly Winter Series rodeo.

Donnie Hayes, owner of Hayes Trucking and former rodeo cowboy, is hoping to bring something similar to the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.

“There’s not a lot going on when the snow is on the ground,” Hayes said. “Rifle had the winter series bull riding for a while, but it’s no longer in existence. From I-25 to I-70 to Grand Junction, there’s roping and barrel racing, but for bucking contestants, there’s nothing for them to do.”

Hayes said the idea has been thought of in the past but was cost-prohibitive for the city. Yet the multipurpose building, or barn, at the fairgrounds has remained mostly desolate during the winter months, and a rodeo could provide cash flow for Routt County and the fair from October through May.

The barn, however, doesn’t have bucking chutes, which can costs thousands of dollars, but Hayes was lucky to find some for $600 at a winter rodeo auction in Rock Springs.

“They were going super cheap, and I brought them in so we can start this,” Hayes said. “The concern with the county is that they have to shorten the arena to put the chutes in. I’ve made sure we had communication with pleasure riders or anyone else that has been using the barn and got the blessings from the other equine users.”

Hayes proposed the idea at the Routt County Board of Commissioners’s Monday work session and has been asked to draw up a more detailed proposal including the costs and maintenance required to put on a rodeo. Liability is also a concern.

Hayes hopes to get the rodeo sanctioned by both the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association and Intermountain Pro Rodeo Association and partner with the Rock Springs winter series.

Hayes is optimistic and believes he could host the first rodeo of the series around St. Patrick’s Day

County Commissioner Doug Monger said he sees the benefit of a steady cashflow to help pay for the upkeep of the building, but he believes it’s more realistic to think the rodeo series would start next winter.

“Having some kind of rough stock bucking events inside the multipurpose facility in the winter season could provide opportunity for people to get up and explore and enjoy the western heritage,” Monger said.

But Hayes’ top priority is to get more kids involved in rodeo. He said traveling to Rock Springs, which is 190 miles from Hayden, isn’t always realistic for younger riders.

Hayes proposes entry fees that are affordable for both participants and spectators. Hayes has lined up a group that wants to do concessions, but one concern is the lack of bathrooms within the multipurpose facility.

Routt County sent eight kids to the National Finals Rodeo competition in Las Vegas last year, and two were crowned national champions, including Hayes’ son, Keenan.

“There’s some talent,” Hayes said. “We need to keep it nurtured and give other children the opportunity to keep going and get better and have a place they can stay tuned up and get the summer ready to rock.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

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