The Cowboys Forever Foundation is addressing behavioral health issues with rodeo
EAGLE — Rodeo cowboys are a walking, talking illustration of the traditional tough guy image. That’s why using the sport of rodeo to highlight Eagle County’s behavioral health effort is a delicious idea. It’s the brainchild of native daughter Samantha Eckert.
“Last year, our family lost a really close friend to suicide,” she said. In response to the loss, Eckert was inspired to create the Cowboys Forever Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to both preserving the valley’s western heritage and increasing awareness of local suicide prevention programs.
“Rodeo is such a great way to bring our community together,” Eckert said. “Plus it’s a way to reach people who we would never reach otherwise.”
She has a point. Rodeo is a sport that attracts a large number of young males, a group that is notoriously difficult to connect with behavioral health services and also has a high suicide rate nationally. Combining the interest with the info seemed like a winning combination for Eckert.
She didn’t have to look far for a venue that fit both her goals. Right off of Interstate 70 in Eagle is a premium facility — the Eagle County Fairgrounds — that traditionally hosts a single rodeo event every year. With 4Eagle Ranch discontinuing its local rodeo action this summer, Eckert figured there would be interest in a weekly Eagle rodeo.
What’s on tap?
The inaugural season for the Cowboys Forever Foundation rodeo series will kick off Friday, June 21. The series will include six rodeos, held Friday evenings at the Eagle County Fairgrounds. Rodeo dates will be June 21 and 28, July 5, 12 and 19, and August 2. The gates will open at 5 p.m., and the grand entry is at 7 p.m.
Admission is $5 for adults (age 12 and older), $3 for seniors and military members, $1 for kids (ages 4 to 11 years) and free for children age 3 years and younger. Food and beverages will be available for purchase during the rodeo performances.
“Each rodeo will include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, team roping, dally ribbon roping, barrel racing, and bull riding,” said Eckert. “Of course, there will also be fun for the kids with mutton bustin’ and the calf scramble. Spectators should plan to arrive at the rodeo early to register kids for these events.”
Mutton Bustin’ will be limited to ten contestants on a first-come, first-served basis. Contestants must be between the ages of 4 and 7 and cannot weigh more than 50 pounds. There is a $10 entry fee for the event. Please arrive at 5:30 pm to register kids for both mutton bustin’ and the calf scramble. There must be a legal guardian present to complete a waiver of liability.
As for the competition events at the rodeo, Eckert said there will be a wide array of skill levels. For example, the team roping events will be divided into two divisions so less experienced teams won’t be pitted against veteran ropers. Likewise, the barrel racing competition will feature a junior division for riders who are new to the sport.
“When you are first starting out in rodeo, it can be a bit intimidating,” Eckert said. ” You are just paying entry fees and not winning. This will give racers age 13 and up a chance at winning something.”
The majority of the entry fees paid by competitors will be awarded as prize money and the admission fees for spectators will cover rodeo expenses.
“The foundation is hosting the rodeo series to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention, partnering with Speak Up Reach Out,” said Eckert. “Our goal for this first year is to provide a platform for Speak Up Reach Out. Then we will see what kind of money we have at the end of the year.”
Along with raising awareness for a sobering local reality, Eckert said the Cowboys Forever Foundation hopes to bring a new option for summertime family fun.
“The foundation hopes that this family, fun-oriented event will bring the community together to help our local non-profits and support our youth involved in rodeo,” she said.
To learn more visit the Cowboys Forever Foundation Facebook page.