Youth rodeo provides bumps and bucks at fair
Hayden — J.D. Case felt trouble coming, even if he was wrong about how.
The 9-year-old Hayden cowboy has already achieved big things in mini bronc riding, advancing last year to Mini Bareback Riding World Championships in Las Vegas.
His results this season weren’t as strong, and he won’t duplicate that trip, but he still knows what it takes to ride a bronc.
The only problem: he was worried the mini bronc — a pony with a temper — he was assigned for Sunday’s Lil’ Buckaroo Junior Rodeo at the Routt County Fair wouldn’t buck so much as it would run.
As it turned out, it did run, but it gave him one big buck, too, and that sent him sprawling head-first to the dirt.
He had to be helped from the ring.
“My mom thinks I have a concussion since I was so dizzy,” he said afterward. “I’ve never got a concussion bronc riding before.”
There were plenty of big bucks Sunday as the Routt County Fair rode to a conclusion in Hayden, and that’s just the way organizers like it.
The fair used to play host to a full-on rodeo, a stop on the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association circuit.
That’s the Routt County Fair Kaylee Myers remembers when she was growing up. She was the fair and rodeo queen in 2002 and has been helping keep rodeo at the fair alive.
She and Donnie Hayes, who was also among the volunteers lending a hand Sunday, both said they’re hopeful to bring bigger rodeo events back to Hayden.
“We’re trying to get rodeo back to the Routt County Fair,” Myers said, looking out as young riders took their turns.
This summer’s fair did include plenty of rodeo events. There were numerous horse riding competitions, and Thursday, local professional bull rider Jake Booco put on a professional invitational bull riding event that drew dozens of riders and hundreds of fans.
Sunday featured more bull riding for full-grown cowboys, but there were plenty of activities for the still-growing cowboys, too.
Jewell Vreeman emerged as the weekend’s all-around rodeo champion for the girls 14-19 class, and Lacey Sherrod won in the 9-13 division. Pepper Rhyne won the boys 9-13, class and Garrett Salazer was tops among the boys 14-19 class.
Those riders competed in a variety of events, from pole bending to barrel racing, goat tying to bronc riding.
The day ended with another wild, youth-focused event: wild pony racing.
“It’s all about the kids,” Myers said. “There’s not really a junior rodeo around in Northwest Colorado. This is the third year for the Lil’ Buckaroo Junior Rodeo, and it’s gradually gotten a little bigger and a little bigger. We’d like to turn it into a two-day event, have it be Saturday and Sunday.”
This year’s fair did include Saturday rodeo events, as well, but they weren’t scored together with Sunday’s junior rodeo. A win Sunday got contestants a small check. A win Saturday got them a shiny Routt County Fair belt buckle.
Ezra Wagner was among the young cowboys who won both days.
“The buckle,” he said, “means I worked hard, and I tried my best.”
The day didn’t go as well for other riders. Destry Schmidt, a bull rider from Walden, fell from his bull after what turned out to be the winning ride, 7.3 seconds.
His arm got stuck on the animal, however, and the rollicking bull stepped on his leg as he was drug along.
He was attended to by an EMT crew after he finally broke free and was taken from the arena in an ambulance with a leg injury.
J.D. Case came out of the day in better shape, despite the bump on the head. He was walking and talking afterward and was as convinced as ever that he loved rodeo, especially in his hometown.
“I like everything about it,” he said. “Even though I fell, it was fun just to be able to do it.”
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There will be no winter tubing on Howelsen Hill during the 2021-22 winter season, a result of an international delay in supply chain.