Routt County Fair team roping draws high number of competitors |

Routt County Fair team roping draws high number of competitors

Heeler Gage Kawcak, horseback left, and header Joe Estes compete in team roping. The competition Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at the Routt County Fair included more than 250 rounds of competitors and lasted six hours.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

HAYDEN — Ranchers, former rodeo notables, 4-H team ropers, up-and-coming rodeo competitors and intergenerational teams roped into the night Wednesday, Aug. 17, under the lights of the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden as the team roping event drew a high number of riders from across the area.

“It’s a great turnout. It’s the most teams that I’ve seen here in 20-something years,” said Kody May, event organizer and fair board member.

The fast-moving competition featured 170 team roping pairs in the traditional event ranging from family teams, to all-girl teams, to an engaged couple team. Multiple local father-and-son teams such as Troy and Levi Allen, father-and-daughter teams such as Josie and Spike Meyring and a few married couples such as Jeff and Bev Salazar from Craig, competed in the team roping at the 108th Routt County Fair.

Announcer Ramona Quick from Craig kept the riders moving efficiently from waiting in the hole, to on deck, to the starting gates.

“You guys be getting ready,” Quick announced all evening to make sure riders were keeping the competition moving with starts about every 60 to 90 seconds.

The computer-aided lineup kept the “pick one partner, draw one partner or draw two partners” style competition moving and kept spectators entertained as the sun set over the arena. Competitors sat ready atop their horses at the edges of the arena. Some good-natured joking about aging competitors and $100 wagers trying to inspire a good run were bandied about between friends.

Belt buckles and prize money for the top winning teams were awarded at the end of the competition that wrapped up after six hours after 1 a.m.

The fair included a more challenging muley roping event for the second year, where the header and heeler riders chase steers with no horns. May, a former competitive team roper, brought muley roping to the fair for the fun competition.

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“They kind of come out of the woodworks for the muley roping because it’s fun,” May said. “It’s challenging; it’s fun to watch; and the contestants have fun doing it. It’s much more challenging than actual team roping. You have to change your loop, and it’s easier to miss the target without horns.”

May said muley roping events are few and far between, so this year’s event drew 84 teams. The event represents a more realistic chore that a cattle rancher might need to do to rope a cow in the pasture that needs to be “doctored,” he said.

“It’s more real world in muley roping, more realistic for what we do out on the ranch,” said May, a rancher in Routt County. “It’s a skill that everyday cowboys and cowgirls use out on the ranch across the western U.S. for animal husbandry.”

The winners for the muley roping competition at the Routt County Fair were Joby Barquin (left) and Regan Wheatley (right). Event organizer Kody May stands in the middle.
Courtesy photo

The best times Wednesday night hit near six seconds for smooth runs. A penalty of five seconds is added to the time when a team only captures one of the steer’s back legs.

“18.93 with your leg. That’ll be a little too long for the finals,” Quick announced after one team finished their run.

Many teams heard, “that’ll be a no time,” when the steer slipped away from the stiff ropes or ran free into the far end of the dirt arena.

Many of the ropers dressed in mostly ball caps but some cowboy hats sported Western inspired names such as Colt, Cody, Cash or Cactus. The ropers paid $40 per run to compete. The top 12 teams across the two categories won prize money up to $1,000 per rider. The winners for 12.5-handicap team roping were Nick Camilletti and Garrett Busby, and the winners for the muley roping were Joby Barquin and Regan Wheatley.

The winners for the No. 12.5 Slide team roping at the Routt County Fair were Nick Camilletti (left) and Garrett Busby (right), Roping event organizer Kody May stands in the middle.
Courtesy photo

Kacee Rodarmel, stock contractor with her husband, Gary, agreed the roping event was a big hit with contestants.

“There’s not a lot of roping that goes on up here anymore,” said Rodarmel, who lives in the small town of Gill east of Greeley. “So, when you bring good cattle in during a county fair, they will usually enter up and hang out all night to rope.”

Likely the youngest roping competitor was 14-year-old Rudy Mendiola Jr. from Summit County, who was part of the winning roping team at the Colorado State Junior High School Rodeo earlier this summer. One of the older competitors was Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee J.C. Trujillo, now in his 70s, who lives south of Hayden.

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