Sixty-five years of quality rodeo
The Eagle County Fair and Rodeo is on the verge of celebrating 65 years, and county officials, the community, and rodeo fans have been working hard to get the County grounds prepped for the year’s biggest event.”There’s a lot of people who put their time in together to make this happen,” says Fair and Rodeo manager Brad Higgins. “There are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and without them it just wouldn’t happen.”The community spirit of the Fair and Rodeo is alive and well in Higgins, who has been volunteering for the rodeo for 20 years. Higgins, who also works for the County, became the manager of the Rodeo last year. Now residing in Gypsum, Higgins has spent the past 27 years living in the Colorado Rockies.He said he loves being a part of the process of putting the event together because he gets to meet and work with all the County officials, parents, 4-H’ers and rodeo fans who help make the event happen.”I’ve always been a rodeo fan,” he said, adding that he thinks Eagle County puts on one of the best around. “For one thing it’s a Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association sanctioned event,” he said. “So it’s pro riders these guys do this stuff for a living.”The other thing that makes the Fair and Rodeo great, he said, is that the County has procured one of the finest stock contractors in the country. People who follow rodeo and bull riding will recognize the names Blenderhead, Squirt, and Classic T some of the nation’s most powerful bulls which have all made it to Las Vegas for the big National Championships and are all owned by the same stock contractor who provides animals for the County Rodeo.Blenderhead, in fact, will be in Eagle County July 31 for the big night of bullriding. Just to give a sense of how powerful Blenderhead can be, he bucked Pro Rodeo Champion Terry Don West in about two seconds during the 10th round of his championship run last year.”We just got it all set up to have a separate pen space for this maniac,” Higgins said. “When it comes to bulls, you can’t just dump them all in the same pen unless you want them tearing down the fairgrounds.”Higgins said that his favorite part of the rodeo is a chance to help and, “Keep the rodeo heritage going.” Eagle County is steeped in ranching lore and history, and Higgins wants to make sure his family and children are allowed to have the same kind of lifestyle he had growing up in Nebraska, and then relocating to Eagle County.Things seem to be going well in that regard: Higgins’ son, Aaron Higgins, held the highest score during last years “Mutton Busting” competition.Mutton busting is a contest for cowboys and cowgirls ages 5-8 who trade in their cowboy hats for protective helmets and ride sheep instead of horses or bulls. It will take place every night at the fairgrounds except for July 31. The little guys or girls are placed up on top of a sheep, bull-riding style, and then whichever child can hang onto the slightly-confused sheep longest, wins.”It’s a crowd favorite.” Higgins said.There’s a lot more going on at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo besides your standard rodeo events including: bullriding, team roping, saddle bronco riding, bareback riding, down roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing.According to Dick Kesler, the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo Coordinator “These events are going to have better riders and better stock, which is going to lead directly to better entertainment.”And of course there will be the 4-H Junior Livestock Auction, where all the hard work that the county’s youths have put into raising and caring for an animal all year pays off. Arts and crafts contests will be ongoing, including this year’s highly touted cookie-jar contest.But not without some hard work behind the scenes. While the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo volunteers, county staff, Fair Board, parents and family members are out hanging banners, checking the fairgrounds, or making sure the stock animals for the rodeo arrive on time for next weeks events, you can be sure there’s a lot of people making sure that everyone has a great time for the 65th annual Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. VT By Shane SantanaSchedule of Events Saturday, July 31 The Grand Entry and Kick-off event. This is the big night for rodeo fans, as the Eagle County Classic Bull Riding starts at 7 p.m. Keep a lookout for local riders it’s still up in the air, but there will most likely. Monday, Aug. 2 The English Horse Show, where spectators will be able to appreciate the refined beauty of these spectacular animals. Tuesday, Aug. 3 Open class 4-H judging and interviews as well as the Open Gymkhana Show, where kids show off their horse proficiency in a more relaxed, laid back environment. Wednesday, Aug. 4 The carnival opens at noon. The exhibit hall opens up with everything from homegrown vegetables to classic leather and stitch-work. It’s also time to get your cookie jar judged in the Cookie Jar Contest. This is also the night the PRCA rodeo gets under way. The seven core events of the PRCA are bullriding, saddle-bronc riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, and barrel racing. Thursday, Aug. 5 Carnival opens at 10 a.m. 4-H games will keep the kids busy in the Red Barn. And the 4-H lamb, goat and market hog shows as well as the PRCA. It’s also catch a calf 4-H night, which will be good for a few laughs and lots of action. Friday, Aug. 6 Carnival opens at 10 a.m. The 4-H animal show will be the beef, rabbit and cat shows. Again, it wouldn’t be a rodeo without the PRCA events. Saturday, Aug. 7 Carnival opens at 10 a.m. There is also a Salsa Contest, a Pretty Baby Contest, and the Junior Livestock Auction, where members of the community will buy the animals from the youths who have raised them in 4-H, and allow the 4-H kids to keep the cycle going for the next year. This is also the last day of the PRCA rodeo contests. Sunday, Aug. 8 Carnival opens at 9 a.m. Don’t forget your basket because it’s Family Picnic Day with free grounds admission and the 4-H dog show.