Chutes at Brent Romick arena to fly open Friday as Steamboat Pro Rodeo series begins run
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When the chutes fly open on the 2019 Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series on Friday, longtime rodeo announcer John Shipley is sure to have one of the best seats in the house. He is proud to be a part of Steamboat’s long rodeo heritage and that he has held his seat in the announcer’s stand since the early 1980s when he first got involved with the rodeo.
“It’s great to be a small part of keeping the tradition alive,” said Shipley, who, on most nights is the voice of the series. “The ranching industry and, as a spinoff, rodeo is what sets Steamboat Springs apart. Our western heritage is something that, in my mind, really distinguishes Steamboat from other mountain towns … there were ranchers here before there were skiers.”
This summer, the Steamboat rodeo will host 10 performances during nine weeks beginning with this weekend’s show and running through the weekend of Aug. 16 to 17. There will also be two rodeos around the Fourth of July holiday.
Regular rodeo performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena located at 401 Howelsen Parkway in downtown Steamboat. Regular ticket prices are $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 7 to 15. Children younger than 6 years are free.
The only exception to those prices and the regular time schedule is the performances on July 4. That day, the events in the rodeo arena begin at 6:30 p.m. with tickets costing $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 7 to 15 and free for those 6 and younger.
On most nights, the gates to the arena will open at 6 p.m. and folks can stop by to listen to the band and get a taste of barbecue before the main event.
Those who don’t want to wait in line the night of the performances can buy tickets in advance at FM Light & Sons at 830 Lincoln Ave. and at the Steamboat Springs Chamber’s visitors center at 125 Anglers Drive.
On most Friday and Saturday nights in June, July and August, Shipley can be found sitting in the announcers booth just off the arena floor explaining the basics of events like bull riding, team roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and barrel racing to the thousands of spectators that show up in the stands to watch the long-running sport of rodeo.
Shipley has spent the past 35 years finding the balance between explaining a sport to those who are witnessing it for the first time and those who have a much better understanding.
What: Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 21, to Saturday, Aug. 17; gates open at 6 p.m.
Where: Brent Romich Rodeo Arena, 401 Howelsen Parkway
Tickets: $20 for adults; $10 for kids ages 7 to 15; free for kids 6 and younger*
*Prices increase for 4th of July weekend performances
This year, his voice will sound better than ever after improvements that upgraded the sound.
“We got a new sound system to address the concrete stands,” Shipley said. “The concrete stands have been a little tenuous for quite a few years. There is a pole by the scoreboard that is high and throws the sound clear across the track and tries to paint that whole concrete grand stand, and those speakers were worn out and, quite frankly, that wasn’t the right way to do it. We are going to have a couple of 15 foot poles at either front corner of the concrete stands with a speaker on it.”
Shipley is hoping the improvements in the sound will help him reach every rodeo fan who comes out, whether they are under the cover of the main rodeo stands or sitting anywhere in the older concrete stands that have served the area for so long.
“I’ve been involved with the Steamboat Springs rodeo since 1983 in some fashion, and I’ve been a member of PRCA since 1987,” said Shipley, who is now a lifetime member of the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association and used to travel around the country in the summer to announce at national rodeos and high-level events in the PRCA.
When he started, the Steamboat Rodeo was a weekly “jackpot rodeo,” featuring local cowboys competing in front of local crowds for whatever the jackpot was on that night. Over the years, the rodeo has grown and is now sanctioned by the PRCA, drawing top cowboys to town looking to take home their share of the purse. Today, the performances have become a home for rising rodeo stars to make some money, and each summer brings in top name specialty acts to entertain the crowds between events.
This year, J.W. Winklepleck will be on hand June 21 to 22, July 12 to 13 and August 16 to 17. Keith Isley will bring his brand of comedy, trick riding and various animal acts to Steamboat Springs June 28 to 29, July 3 to 4 and July 5 to 6 and will be followed by Bobby Kerr’s Mustang act on July 12 to 13 and July 19 to 20. Other highlights will include Brian Potter on July 19 to 20 and July 26 to 27. The Trixie Chicks trick riders on Aug. 2 to 3 and Dalton Morris on Aug. 9 to 10.
But the highlight of the summer for Shipley, a veteran rodeo announcer whose voice has been heard ringing across rodeo arena floors from Oregon to Florida and from New York to California has to be the Fourth of July. This year, the 116th Cowboy Round Up Days will host two performances covering four straight days.
“There is no better day designed for pro rodeo than the Fourth of July,” Shipley said. “It’s an American sport, it’s an American birthday and it celebrates two originals. We always look forward to the Fourth of July.”
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