Historic Steamboat Pro Rodeo returns for 4th of July
Rodeos always open in pure patriotic fashion: the National Anthem and the Cowboy’s Prayer. The prayer asks that the cowboys are blessed with a safe evening. No matter one’s religious belief, they can’t help but bow their head and hope for a beautiful and safe evening.
Then, faster than a cowgirl can tip her hat, the festivities begin.
The Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series prides itself on pace. Action-packed, rapid-fire events are mixed in with more casual or novice events. There’s also fun events for kids and entertainment acts thrown in the schedule as well.
Young rodeo fans can take part in the calf scramble, in which they attempt to pull a pink ribbon off a calf’s tail. They also can take part in the ram scramble, where young kids run around to pull a small ribbon off the animal’s belly.
Ahead of the rodeo, there is live music and a barbecue.
There’s always a clown show as well, and on Fourth of July weekend, the man in the can will be Keith Isley. Isley is a rodeo legend and has won countless awards for his ability to entertain an audience. He also incorporates charming animals behavioral tricks into his act.
Rodeo clowns serve an important safety role. While standing in a well-cushioned barrel or can, they distract bulls from going after riders as riders try to flee the arena. They are also the main form of entertainment throughout the evening. They banter with Steamboat Pro Rodeo announcer John Shipley and charm the audience with their witty quips in small breaks in the action.
“He’s the hottest thing going on right now, at least in the barrel,” said Steamboat Pro Rodeo Board Chairman Brent Romick. “Keith is an exceptional personality. We feel Keith fits in the three best people in the PRCA.”
The fact that Steamboat Pro Rodeo was able to secure Isley on the busy Fourth of July weekend proves how much he loves the area and how serious the Steamboat Pro Rodeo is.
What: Fourth of July rodeo action
When: 6 p.m. BBQ and music; 7:30 p.m. rodeo begins — Thursday, July 1, Friday, July 2, Saturday, July 3, and Sunday, July 4 (rodeo begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Brent Romick Rodea Arena, 401 Howelsen Parkway
Rodeo can be thrilling to witness for the spectacle itself. It’s a historic and strange series of events, but like any athletic endeavor, it’s more enjoyable if the audience understands what they’re watching.
Let’s break down the events.
• Barrel racing: Barrel racing is a cowgirl-only event in which women ride a speedy horse around three barrels in a clover shape trying to earn the fastest time. This is a speedy and technical event that requires a lot of talent from the rider and the horse.
“Everyone likes women on fast horses,” Romick said. “If you ask the young kids and the more extreme personalities that go, they love bull riding. We give them plenty of bull riding.”
• Bull riding: This is the most extreme and adrenaline-inducing rodeo event. Riders are aiming to stay on the bull for eight seconds, while impressing the judges with their grace and skill. In order to score, they must remain on the bull, keep one hand tied to the bull and not touch the bull with their free hand. Both the rider and bull are judged. The amount of bucking a bull does can bolster a rider’s score, so drawing a tough bull is both a negative and positive. At the Steamboat Pro Rodeo, there is permit bull riding, for amateurs, and pro bull riding.
Bareback bronc riding: Most bucking horses are bred for this job by stock contractors, selected for agility and strength and, of course, bucking ability. Riders emerge from the chute in the mark out position, with their boots in contact with the horse above the animals shoulders. The horse and rider are scored. Similar to bull riding, a more lively horse warrants a higher score.
Saddle bronc riding: Saddle bronc is similar to bareback but with a saddle. That doesn’t mean it’s easy by any means. These horses mean business when it comes to bucking. The riders are slightly more secure in a saddle, but they still have to navigate the ride and maintain contact with just one hand.
Steer wrestling: Aside from bull riding, this event might make the audience flinch the most. A young steer with large horns is released from a chute, immediately followed by the contestant. The contestant rides parallel to another rider, keeping the steer between their horses. When he’s in position, he slides off his horse and on top of the steer, grabbing the animal by its horns. The competitor then digs in their heels and turns the steer’s horns to the side, tipping the animal over and stopping the clock. This event is fast and slightly frightening, but wildly entertaining.
Tie-down roping: Another fast event, tie-down roping also features a young cow being released from the chute just before the competitor. The rider hauls after the young animal on a horse and lassos its head. As the competitor hops off their horse, the horse pulls slowly backward, keeping the rope around the cow taught. The competitor then lifts the cow, tips it on its side and ties its feet together. When the competitor throws up their hands, the clock stops. The time only counts if the cow doesn’t get loose within a short amount of time.
Team roping: This is the only event in which men and women can compete together in rodeo. The two competitors, known as a header and a heeler, chase after a young steer on horses. First, the header loops a rope around it’s head. As soon as that’s done, the heeler then attempts to rope the back legs of the steer. It’s incredible the skill needed to place the rope in the right spot at the right time to rope the hind legs.
Visit SteamboatProRodeo.com for more information about the Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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