by Catherine Lutz
“Let’s go, let’s show, let’s rodeo.”
It’s a fine summer evening, a refreshing wash of light rain cooling the air and the warm flush of sunset beginning to turn everything nostalgic. The participants have filed into the rodeo arena on horseback and the American flag galloped around its perimeter by a beaming cowgirl in a crisp white shirt. After the national anthem, Snowmass Rodeo announcer Derek Barton kicks off the competitive events of Colorado’s longest-running rodeo — celebrating 44 years this summer.
Authentically western and put on by a crew and contestants with deep Roaring Fork Valley roots, the rodeo is a unique highlight of a summer visit to Snowmass. Held every Wednesday at 7 pm (pre-rodeo activities and the barbecue begin at 5 pm), it’s an event that brings you back to another era, to the wild west beginnings of the Brush Creek Valley when a handful of ranches dotted the valley and being a cowboy was surefire way to make a living.
Indeed, the very first Snowmass rodeo, in the summer of 1973, drew 1,400 people — an impressive number given how sleepy summers tended to be back then. Today’s rodeo may be more heavily attended by tourists —with modern touches such as a bouncy horse (among other kids activities), vendor booths, and even VIP seating —but its core events have remained unchanged for decades, representing the daily skills needed to run a ranch and ride the range.
If you get a hankering to go to the rodeo (and everyone who passes through should treat themselves), here’s a primer on some of its key events.