Rodeo rolls into Eagle
EAGLE, Colorado – Eagle County’s Fair and Rodeo has been the Mountain States Circuit’s rodeo of the year almost since the invention of riding and and roping.OK, two years in a row, but that’s two more than anyone else.More than 350 contestants are entered in this year’s rodeo, up from 300 last year. Among those are the world’s top rodeo cowboys.It helps that Eagle County’s rodeo is running at the same time as Cheyenne’s Frontier Days. Lots of cowboys will hit the highway to loop from one to another in search of perfect rides and piles of prize money.Cowboys tend to be capitalists, and if they can chase two or more piles of prize money at the same time, they will.They’ll jump in the saddle, perform their chosen profession in Eagle and then jump in a truck and head to Cheyenne, Wyo., for more of the same.Then they head back to Eagle.Good thing it’s a pretty drive.It also helps that lots of the rough stock Pete Carr brings is bound for the National Finals Rodeo later this year in Las Vegas.Riders love it that the bulls and broncs they ride wake up in the middle of the night wishing they were meaner than they already are – and getting their wish. The rougher the ride, the better the score.”The top 15 riders will be here,” said Laurie Asmussen, fair coordinator.Rough stock rodeo entries are maxed out: 48 in bareback broncs, 48 in saddle broncs and 60 in the bull riding.They had 102 bull riders signed up, said Brad Higgins, who manages the Fair & Rodeo when he’s not running the county’s Road and Bridge Department. Which leads to the obvious question: Where on God’s green earth do you find 102 people willing to ride bulls for a living?”Well, this week you’ll find lots of them on the road between here and Cheyenne,” Higgins said.
Bronc rider Ryan Gray had a world-record bareback ride last year. His 94 score puts Gray in a three-way tie for the world record.He rode an ill-tempered bronc named Grass Dancer that wanted nothing more than for Gray to rest in peace – right then – and set about trying to make it happen. The rodeo world was positively abuzz about it. Magazine covers trumpeted it.Gray will be back. So will Grass Dancer, whose name has nothing to do with rhythmically impaired medical marijuana-card holders at Grateful Dead cover-band shows.135 minutes of unbridled funToday’s rodeo factoid: A professional rodeo can only last two hours and 15 minutes, including the clown acts.Trying to stuff all 350 contestants into 135 minutes is a little like stuffing a sumo wrestler into a bullfighter’s barrel.So, after Wednesday’s opening-night performance, they’ll have what’s called “slack” time, which isn’t as much like your college years as it might seem.The contestants who could not fit into Wednesday’s public performance will compete after the crowd is gone and the last bull has pitched the last cowboy through the hole in the ozone. It still counts, and they’re still working for a living.”We’ll have 113 runs after the rodeo is over,” Higgins said.They’ll all be there until the wee hours of Thursday morning.”It’s a good problem to have,” Asmussen said.