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"Let Freedom Ride’

Veronica Whitney

Cheaper family tickets and one of the top bull-riders in the country await visitors of the 64th Eagle County Fair and Rodeo.The annual rodeo starts Saturday and ends Sunday, Aug. 3, at the Eagle County Fairgrounds in Eagle.”It’s an enduring local tradition,” says Dick Kesler, coordinator for the past three years. “If you look at other counties in Colorado, their fairs and rodeos have diminshed. But we are very fortunate that we can achieve this level of rodeo thanks to the county, the organizing committee and the community.”Every summer, since 1939, the rodeo attracts some of the boldest bareback-riders, bronco-busters, champion bull-riders, team-ropers, barrel-riders and rodeo clowns.The theme of this year’s rodeo is “Let Freedom Ride!””It justifies the spirit and the direction of this county,” Kesler says.The big change this year is that the organizing committee has chosen to do substantial ticket packages for families, who will pay $25 for two adults and two children instead of $14 per adult and $6 per child.”This year we’re focusing on families getting to see the rodeo by offering new ticket values,” Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone says. “This will continue to be our best rodeo ever.”Professional rodeoAlso, bull-riding this year is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, or PRCA, which means bull-riders have to be members of the organization to participate.”The quality of our rodeo is such that it is one of 100 in the country that give points to go the national rodeo finals in Las Vegas in December,” Kesler says.The Eagle County Bull-Riders Classic takes place Saturday with a total purse of $5,000. Beginning Wednesday, July 30, the PRCA rodeo will present four nightly performances that run through Aug. 2.”We have one of the foremost bull-riders in the country, Leon Coffee, PRCA barrel man and entertainer, who will be here for all five events,” Kesler said. “Coffee will also do some specialty acts. He is one of the top barrel-men and bull-riders in the country.”Other special attractions include:- Junior Livestock Auction, Saturday, Aug. 2, at 4 p.m.- Carnival rides, children’s activities and educational exhibits.- Great food and drinks.- Local artisans.- Regional vendors.- Numerous horse shows.- Eagle County’s largest 4-H livestock exhibits.Community helpKesler says he expects some 20,000 people to attend the five rodeo performances.”But the rodeo also is focused on 4-H – the largest exhibit of livestock in Eagle County,” he says. “We’ve historically had the highest price for livestock. And this money goes to these kids’ scholarship or college funds.”We’re a little shining star; it’s tough to beat us,” he adds. “No one else on the Western Slope has a rodeo like we have.”Kesler attributes part of the rodeo success to the quality of cowboys it attracts.”We attract top-ranked PRCA cowboys and we’ve had cowboys from Australia coming to our rodeo,” he says.This year, Kesler says, the community also has helped to improve the 5,000-square-foot exhibit hall.”Each year we make that facility better. If it’s not part of the budget, we can find somebody to help with repairs,” Kesler says. “Our goal is to provide the best show that week and cover the costs.”The annual rodeo, says Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi said, is a symbol of the county’s deep legacy and commitment to its Western heritage and ranching history.”With each Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, members of the organizing board try to outdo themselves from the previous year and provide the very best show,” he says.Eagle County Fair & Rodeo 2003 schedule:All the events take place at the Eagle County Fairgrounds in Eagle.Admission to several of the Fair events is free and parking is always free.- Saturday7 p.m. – Grand entry and kick-off event: Eagle County Classic Bull-Riding.9 p.m. – Concert: Southern Comfort, Arena Dirt Dance.- Sunday9 a.m. – 4-H Hunter/Jumper Horse Show.- Monday9 a.m. – 4-H Western Horse Show.- Tuesday9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Open class and 4-H judging and interviews in the Exhibit Hall 6 p.m. – Youth & Open Gymkhana Show- WednesdayNoon – Carnival opens.1 p.m. – 4-H weigh-in of sale animals3 p.m. -All 4-H animals in place4 p.m. – 4-H poultry show5- 8 p.m. – Exhibit Hall open to public6-6:45 p.m. – Register cookie jars in the Exhibit Hall for the Cookie Jar Contest.7 p.m. – Judging of the Cookie Jar Contest.7 p.m. – Dessert in the Exhibit Hall8 p.m. – PRCA Rodeo/Family Night- Thursday, July 319-8 p.m. – Exhibit Hall open to public9 a.m. – 4-H market hog show10 a.m. – Pressure-Canning-Lid Testing11 a.m. – Carnival opens.1:30 p.m. – 4-H Lamb Show3 p.m. – 4-H Goat Show6 p.m. – 4-H Games in the Red Barn7 p.m. – Dessert in the Exhibit Hall8 p.m. – PRCA Rodeo/4-H Night at the Rodeo- Friday, Aug. 19 a.m.-8 p.m. – Exhibit Hall open to public9 a.m. – 4-H Beef Show11 a.m. – Carnival opens1 p.m. – 4-H Rabbit Show2 p.m. – 4-H Demonstration Contest in the Exhibit Hall3 p.m. – 4-H Cat Show in the Exhibit Hall6 p.m. – 4-H fashion Revue in the Exhibit Hall7 p.m. – Dessert in the Exhibit Hall8 p.m. – PRCA Rodeo/TGIF- Saturday, Aug. 29 a.m.-9 p.m. – Exhibit Hall open to public9 a.m. – 4-H Round Robin Showmanship10 a.m. – Pretty Baby Contest in Exhibit Hall10 a.m. – Carnival opensNoon – Salsa Contest in the Exhibit Hall3 p.m. – Vegetable Sculpting Contest4 p.m. -Junior livestock auction7 p.m. – Dessert in Exhibit Hall8 p.m. – PRCA Rodeo/Junior Livestock-Buyer Night- Sunday, Aug. 39 a.m.-3 p.m. – Carnival and vendors open; Family Picnic DayNoon – 4-H dog show.- For more information, call 328-3646, or visit http://www.eagle-county.com/rodeo.cfmVeronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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