photo credit: George Hendrix
The wild west was known for its cowboys, cattle, and dark, starry nights. The cowboys were tough and rugged, and their job—wrangling cattle while traveling for hundreds of miles—was no easy task. However, as the number of cattle being driven across the country grew, land became barren, making it hard to keep so many of them alive. In response to hundreds of hungry cattle, homesteaders started to fence their land to keep the animals out, which ultimately led to the decline of long cattle drives and the downfall of traditional cowboy culture.
Yet, cowboys refused to stop doing what they loved. Thus, the rodeo—and a new venue where cowboys could continue to make a living—was born.
The rodeo paints a portrait of the American cowboy, a profound historical figure who’s evolved from solitary professional to crowd-drawing athlete. And nowhere is a cowboy’s history more alive than in Colorado, where mountains, fertile pastures, and open spaces have drawn cowboys for generations.
A Colorado Rodeo is the perfect place to immerse yourself in wild west history while also taking in great entertainment. The energy surrounding a rodeo is surreal as men and women show off incredible skills and provide terrific excitement. If this sounds like something you want to check out, one of the greatest rodeos in Colorado is the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo, which is dedicated to keeping the Roaring Fork Valley’s western heritage alive.
Ranching has been part of Carbondale’s history since its earliest days, and the town is still known for its working cowboys, cattle drives, and prizewinning livestock. The Carbondale Roping Club, formed in 1948, held regular rodeos near the site of the Log Cabin Museum, and the tradition continues today with Thursday night events that run all summer long.
Despite its proximity to Aspen, the rodeo has managed to stay low key, with the board nixing elite access in favor of tailgate barbecues and a family friendly atmosphere. A perfect illustration of this is the pricing structure. While you can pay $10 for an individual ticket, a carload will cost you $30. In other words, fill up your truck and save big! What’s also great about this rodeo is the mix of people it attracts. In a single stand you might sit with a Mennonite family, a gaggle of retirees, a mother speaking to her children in Spanish, businessmen, or visitors from France asking about the trail to Hanging Lake.
The Carbondale Wild West Rodeo offers many of the traditional events you might expect at a rodeo. Get your kicks watching barrel racing, one of the most unique events in the rodeo world. While cowboys are holding down bucking broncos and spinning bulls, cowgirls are charging through the gate in a race against the clock. Or, catch your breath watching bull racing, perhaps the most recognized and popular of all the rodeo events. It’s also the most dangerous. As cowboys often say, “It’s not if you get hurt, it’s when.”
If there are kiddos in your party, the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo has plenty to offer. Enter them in the Calf Scramble, where kids chase calves and snatch ribbons from their tails. Or, watch Mutton Bustin’, where kids grab hold of wool and ride sheep for as long as they can. For a milder activity, horseback rides are also available on select dates.
If you’re in the Roaring Fork Valley this summer and are looking for something new, something exciting, or just a plain old good time, the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo is the perfect place to go. If you do, here are the details:
The rodeo runs every Thursday June 2 through August 18
Gates Open: 5:30 pm
Slack: 6:00 pm
Grand Entry: 7:30 pm
The rodeo is held at the Gus Darien Riding Arena. County Road 100 (Catherine Store Road) Carbondale, CO 81623
Carbondale Wild West Rodeo tickets can be purchased at the gate or purchased in advance at the Roaring Fork Valley Coop in Carbondale. Individual tickets are $10/each or a book of six tickets can be purchased for $50. Or, pay per carload, which is $30.
For more information, visit www.CarbondaleRodeo.com
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Lindsay Diamond is a novelist and freelance writer living in the mountains of central Colorado. Visit writerlindsaydiamond.wordpress.com to learn more.