RIDGWAY – “This is such an old rodeo; I want to say 108 years old. It’s at least 100 years old. It’s a big part of Ridgway’s history, and we need to maintain that history.” So said Lori Howard of the Ouray County Rodeo Association on the upcoming Labor Day Rodeo, happening at the Fairgrounds in Ridgway, Sept. 4 and 5.
Both days will see professional rodeo competition provided by the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association, along with a slew of historic, competitive fun events for local amateurs.
Gates open at 12 noon each day, Sunday and Monday, with the action starting at 1 p.m.
The professional cowboys will participate in all the traditional events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, mixed team roping, tie-down roping, open team roping, bull riding, and ladies barrel racing. There’s good prize money, too, according to Howard, who was born and raised in Montrose and happens also to own the White Horse Saloon in Ridgway.
“There’ll be $1,000 added to the winners,” she said – added over and above what the rodeo pays them. “The CPRA says they have quite a few signed up already for saddle bronc and for bull riding,” Howard said.
The local events are big crowd favorites, Howard said. Sunday will see the relay race and the rescue race. Monday will feature a bedroll competition and a steer packing competition. There’ll be stick horse racing for kids on both days.
For spectators who aren’t familiar with these historic events – spectators like your reporter – here is a brief description of each from Lori Howard. All of them involve riders on horseback.
The rescue race: You’ve got two people at either end of the arena, one on horseback and one standing on the ground. The rider (the rescuer) races to the pedestrian, wheels around, picks him up and sprints back to the finish line, for time.
The relay race (sometimes known as Indian relay racing): There are teams of five people and three horses. At the gun, jockeys race around the track and attempt to leap off and then onto the second horse for lap No. 2. The exchanges are all happening in front of the grandstand, and “the crowd loves it,” Howard said. “The horses are comin’ in fast, and the second- and third-lap horses are not holding still.” The race may or may not involve unsaddling the horse you were on and then (attempting) to saddle the new mount. Sometimes a horse will complete a lap riderless.
The bedroll competition: Howard described this one. “They all have a horse, a bedroll and a saddle. The competitors are on the ground in the bedroll with their boots and hats off. At the start, they have to get up, get their boots and hat on, saddle the horse, roll up the bed roll, and ride across the finish.”
Steer packing: This is a team event with one person on horseback and one on foot. The rider must lead a steer across the arena, then together with his partner put a pack saddle on the critter and load the saddle with “a bunch of stuff, grain sacks, buckets,” Howard said, and tie the load down. Then they have to get the steer back across the arena without losing any of the load.
Combine these wild crowd-pleasers with the pro rodeo – and the rodeo queen! – and you have a full weekend. The 2010 Rodeo Queen Morgan Jossi will crown, or rather present the sash to, the 2011 queen at the start of Sunday’s rodeo. She will come from among this year’s princesses: Deanne Blankmeyer, Rosie Rogers, Brynne Skalla, Alexis Darcy, and Catlin Sanchez.
(In addition, the weekend includes the Firemen’s Ball on Sunday night at the Ridgway Fire House, and the Labor Day Parade and BBQ, at Hartwell Park on Monday, before the rodeo cranks up.)
For more information call Susan Long, Ouray County Fairgrounds Manager at 970/626-3304 ( HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com) or Lori Howard at 970/318-9077.