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Melissa Etheridge talks about her Tao before her concert at Belly Up

Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.

Now, she’s taking these tunes on the road as part of her newest album, “One Way Out.” She performs at the Belly Up on Aug. 17. For fans familiar with the singer’s biggest hits from the mid-1990s, “One Way Out” (both the title track and the album) has a harder rock edge and goes heavy on her distinctive voice and guitar sound.

“My intention was to show that I’m a rock-and-roller,” Etheridge said during a recent phone interview.

Lively and effervescent, you get the sense that she loves what she does and has limitless energy, especially when it comes to her job of more than three decades. And this album was a bit of a return to those roots.

“I got this idea to get the band back together — the original, very first band I ever toured with, which was Kevin McCormick on bass, Fritz Lewak on drums and John Shanks on guitar,” she said. “These guys are monsters.”

They recorded with her on the album, and the rest is (recent) history.

Looking back, Etheridge said she’s happy these songs are being dusted off the shelf, as a lot has changed since she decided not to release them initially. As to why she waited?

“I was still very confused about who I was and was easily drawn off track sometimes,” she said.

But now she feels ready and then some.

“These songs now — the me now is so different of the me 30 years ago, because I’m not afraid of my strength,” she said. “I’m not afraid to get up there and RAWR ‘I’m a rock god.’ These songs were feminist; singing these songs now is like getting my power back, power that I had dampened on my own when I was younger and less sure of myself.”

Those headed to the show are likely to pick up on that rollicking attitude as Etheridge looks forward to another return to Colorado, several years after lifting a self-imposed, 26-year boycott of the state (in 2015) in protest of Colorado’s Amendment 2 passage in 1993.

“After being away for a long time, I try to come back every year,” she said. “I love playing Colorado, the landscape there. I’ve played everywhere around the area. Especially Belly Up, with 400 people standing up in front of me. It’s a sweaty, hot rock and roll night. And, we’re going to turn it up!”

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Melissa Etheridge plays Belly Up Aug. 17.

Dipping into a seemingly endless well of enthusiasm, Etheridge breezed through our tight 15-minute phone call, one of many on her schedule that day.

When asked about how she keeps it up after all this time, she said, “Because I don’t ever think of it as hard. I don’t ever say that. I’m very grateful. I know that I’m doing things that 99.9% of people don’t get to do, and I’ve learned a lot. I have learned about life, I’ve learned about health, and one of the strongest lessons I have learned is that I will be what I think I am. I wanted this to be an amazing journey that’s constantly challenging and constantly rewarding. And it is.”

It’s a challenge not to get swept up in her overwhelming positivity, but that positivity does strike a balance with a wisdom built from years of success and struggles — both in and out of the spotlight.

“I’ve climbed that mountain; I’ve made it,” she said. “I want to say, ‘You can do this, let’s not make ourselves small anymore.’ Let’s inspire each other.”

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Melissa Etheridge inspires audiences with her messages through music.

PHOTOS: A look back at the Grizzly Creek Fire and subsequent debris slides

This week marks the second anniversary of the Grizzly Creek Fire‘s eruption in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 120 around 1:30 p.m. on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. The fire burned until it was 100% contained on Dec. 18 and spread to 32,631 acres.

By Aug. 12, the fire had crossed both Interstate 70 and the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The power plant at the Shoshone Generating Station was evacuated, along with the communities of No Name, Lookout Mountain and Coulter Creek. Due to the fire’s location and the closure of I-70, the Grizzly Creek Fire became the nation’s top fire priority and was taken over by Type I crews.

Smoke from the Grizzly Creek Fire billows behind the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Canyon after the fire blew up again in No Name Creek on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A man watches from the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge as smoke billows from the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A small engine air tanker flies around the smoke plume billowing from the Grizzly Creek Fire as it explodes on the south side of the Colorado River above Glenwood Canyon in August 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Embers from the Grizzly Creek Fire illuminate the mountains above Glenwood Springs on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. The Grizzly Creek Fire initially broke out along interstate 70 at mile marker 120 in Glenwood Canyon just east of Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Smoke lifts from the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon after the Grizzly Creek Fire tore through the area and continues to burn in spot fires along the canyon walls in 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Grizzly Creek Fire continues to burn up the ridgelines from Glenwood Canyon as seen from the air during a flyover with EcoFlight in August 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Smoke hangs low in the cliffs near the Hanging Lake rest area due to the Grizzly Creek Fire on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and other forest personnel stop at the Hanging Lake rest area to assess progress of the Grizzly Creek Fire on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Smoke hangs low in the cliffs near the Hanging Lake rest area due to the Grizzly Creek Fire on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Fire crews work to battle the Grizzly Creek Fire as it shoots down the ridge into No Name Canyon after the fire initially started on Interstate 70 on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 at mile marker 120.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

2021 debris slides

Glenwood Canyon and the burn scar experienced near daily heavy rain events the following summer in late July and early August leading to massive debris slides all throughout the canyon.

Burned logs float in a dammed portion of the Colorado River after a flash flood swept a major debris slide down the Devil’s Hole drainage in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 124, bringing rocks, mud and debris into the river.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Crews work to clean the dirt and remaining mud from the roadways in Glenwood Canyon on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Colorado Department of Transportation crews work to unclog a box culvert that filled with mud and debris after a flash flood in Glenwood Canyon in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Evidence of a debris slide in a drainage in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 125 in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Construction crews work on the lower deck of Interstate 70 as seen from the damaged portion of the upper westbound deck near mile marker 123.5 in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A massive debris flow sits in the Colorado River after washing down the Devils Hole drainage in Glenwood Canyon near mile marker 125 in late summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rocks and debris cover what used to be the trail to Hanging Lake after flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon in summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rocks and debris cover what used to be the trail to Hanging Lake after recent flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon in summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Rocks and debris cover bridge number five along the trail to Hanging Lake after flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon in summer 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PHOTOS: Best of 2022 Garfield County Fair

Here is a look back at Post Independent staff photographer Chelsea Self’s favorite images from last week’s Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.

A bull rider prepares behind the chutes before the start of Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A saddle bronc rider is thrown off the horse while competing at the PRCA ProRodeo night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Samantha Scott waits in line with her cow during the beef weigh-in at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Allyson Sandidge is congratulated by friends and family after winning Grand Champion Market Lamb at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider hangs out behind the chutes before the start of the Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A cowboy gears up for some bull riding at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo Xtreme Bull Riding night on Wednesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A 4-H girl walks her pig to the scale for the weigh-in on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 Garfield County Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bareback bronc rider hangs on tight during the PRCA ProRodeo night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A steer wrestler competes at the PRCA ProRodeo night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Cowboys hang out behind the chutes before the start of Wednesday’s Xtreme Bull Riding portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A tie down roper competes at the PRCA ProRodeo night at the 2022 Garfield County Fair and Rodeo on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Reagen Koehler shows her heavy-weight market lamb during the 2022 Garfield County Fair lamb show on Thursday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PHOTOS: Large livestock arrives for weigh-ins at 2022 Garfield County Fair

Tuesday was a busy day at the Garfield County Fairgrounds with the arrival of the sheep, swine, goats, lambs and beef to kick off the large livestock portion of the 2022 Garfield County Fair.

The swine show will take place at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the indoor arena. The sheep show will start at 9 a.m. Thursday followed by the lambs, and Friday at 9 a.m. will be the beef show.

A 4-H girl walks her pigs to the scale for the weigh-in on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 Garfield County Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A 4-H boy waits in line with his cow during the beef weigh-in at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A 4-H boy walks his cow out of the weighing chute at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A young 4-H girl waits in line for the lamb weigh-in at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Two 4-H girls wait in line to weigh their lambs at the 2022 Garfield County Fair on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A 4-H boy walks his pig away from the scale during the weigh-in on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 Garfield County Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
4-H kids hang out in the pens with their pigs during the fair weigh-in on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 Garfield County Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A young 4-H girl walks her pig to the scale for the weigh-in on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 Garfield County Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A 4-H girl walks her pig away from the scale after the weigh-in on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 Garfield County Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PHOTOS: Faces of Mountain Fair

Carbondale Arts executive director Amy Kimberly addresses the crowd to kick off the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle participant makes his way to the large gathering in Sopris Park at the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
I am Buffalo Too, grandson of the Red Ute, gives the opening blessing at the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle participant gears up for the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle participant takes part in the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair gathering on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle participant takes part in the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair gathering on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Laurie Loeb leads the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle to kick off the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A familiar face in the adult limbo contest whips his dreads up while competing at the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Saturday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PHOTOS: Carbondale kicks off 51st annual Mountain Fair

Rhythm of the Heart drummers make their way to the drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Laurie Loeb leads the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle to kick off the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Images from the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Images from the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A Carbondale Mountain Fair goer offers an avocado during the Rythm of the Heart community drum circle on Friday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Images from the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Images from the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Images from the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Images from the Rhythm of the Heart community drum circle at the start of the 51st annual Carbondale Mountain Fair on Friday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Never again? Largest wild horse roundup in Colorado history could be state’s last

A camouflaged helicopter rises above the horizon.

The pattern does little to conceal the aircraft as the rotors blow high elevation desert sand into thick clouds of dust. The thumping can be heard for miles.

Several hundred yards ahead, a band of a half-dozen wild horses emerges over the horizon, too, running from the helicopter. The airborne wrangler sways in the air, pushing horses south along a trail off Rio Blanco County Road 70.

The trail, typically used by off-road vehicles, leads to a trap with two long wings of burlap-like material called jute on either side. As the jute narrows, the helicopter slows and lowers ushering the horses toward a series of corrals.

The elaborate equipment was set up to remove wild horses from Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area west of Meeker and south of Rangely. The horses are descendants of herds used by Ute tribes that named the area Piceance — “Land of tall grass.”

The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency in charge of managing these wild horses, contends the 190,000-acre area can accommodate between 135 and 235 horses. A population estimate from this spring — before a new crop of foals was born — guessed there were about 1,385 horses there.

The 750 horses being removed from the area is more than any other roundup in Colorado history. It could be the last in the state from the air.

As the band of horses gets closer to capture, a large black stallion in the rear of the group stops running.

Instead of being coaxed into captivity, the stallion turns and charges toward the helicopter, the rest of his band following suit. What moments before was a neat line of horses seemingly ensnared is now a scattered mess on the landscape. The pilot retreats in an attempt to regroup the horses, but it is too late for this run.

Some gallop back over the horizon to the west while others run into a lower section with thick trees and sagebrush. The chopper blades grow louder as the machine gains altitude and flies off to find more mustangs. After several more runs, including another where the horses got away at the last second, the chopper lands near the trap.

At 3 p.m., it’s about 90 degrees. Eric Coulter, a public affairs specialist for the BLM, radios the private livestock contractor at the trap site to see what’s happening. 

“They called it,” Coulter says to a handful of observers watching the roundup from a viewing area set up by the BLM about a mile from the trap.

The operation ends with 41 wild horses rounded up on July 19.

Colorado’s last?

This roundup is the third time helicopters have been used to wrangle wild horses in Colorado in the last year. When the BLM removed more than 450 horses from the West Douglas Herd Area last summer, it became the largest in state history. Last September, the 632 horses removed from the Sand Wash Basin replaced it in the record book.

In Piceance, the BLM hopes to gather 1,050 total horses and treat 300 of them with a form of birth control before releasing them back on the range. The other 750 horses will be shipped to a holding facility in Utah.

As of Tuesday, the BLM had gathered 733 wild horses in Piceance. Three have died, each from a pre-existing condition, according to the agency.

Before these roundups, Colorado hadn’t seen a large-scale helicopter operation in years. The previous high had been 276 horses removed from Piceance more than a decade ago.

Bill Mills, the field manager for the BLM’s White River Field Office who decided to gather these horses and move the operation up to July, said he hopes this is the last one.

“Our goal for this (herd management area) is to not ever have a helicopter back in it,” Mills said. “Once we get to the appropriate management level, we don’t want a helicopter, and we don’t want to ever send a horse to holding.”

During last year’s Sand Wash Basin roundup, BLM Colorado’s Wild Horse and Burro specialist Steve Leonard said the same.

A mare and a foal make their way across the open range of the Piceance-East Douglas Horse Mangement Area on July 11, 2022, just before the Bureau of Land Management began the helicopter portion of a gather with a goal of rounding up 1,050 horses and reducing the herd by 750 horses. John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
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“Absolutely, my goal is to not have another large gather (in Sand Wash),” Leonard told Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Colorado’s other two herd management areas — Spring Creek near Grand Junction and Little Book Cliffs in Southwest Colorado — are both at, or close to, BLM’s desired management levels. Sand Wash Basin is now, too.

It remains to be seen whether these goals will be realized. If they are, the Piceance-East Douglas gather could end as both the largest and last helicopter roundup in state history.

“We share the common vision that large scale gathers are not the optimal management scenario,” wrote BLM Acting State Director Stephanie Connolly in a July 15 letter to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. “When we stay close to the appropriate management level and have a successful partnership and contraception program, wild horses are gathered typically from small bait and trap methods and find homes via successful adoptions.”

‘Excess’ horses

This Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area roundup is one of three underway across the West.

In California, the BLM is looking to remove nearly 1,900 wild horses from the wild. In Nevada, the goal is removing 1,800. Other roundups have already been completed with more planned later this year.

In all, the agency hopes to round up more than 20,500 wild horses and burros in 2022 — about a quarter of all the wild horses in the United States, based on a BLM estimate from March 1.

The roughly 82,000 wild horses and burros is more than three times what BLM officials have determined is the West’s appropriate management level. The agency is now in the second year of a plan that aims to get horse populations under control.

“If nothing were done to reduce the annual growth rate of these herds, by 2040, the BLM estimates the on-range populations of wild horses and burros would increase to over 2.8 million,” reads a 2020 report to Congress outlining the agency’s plan to “achieve a sustainable wild horse and burro program.”

BLM officials say this accelerated plan to remove “excess” horses over an 18-year period is needed to fulfill the duty assigned to them in the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 — the law that protects wild horses and declared them living symbols of “the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

The gather in Piceance is necessary to “preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationships in that area,” Mills said in a statement announcing the gather.

Other uses the BLM is considering include recreation, oil and gas development, and wildlife and livestock grazing, among others. To achieve the goal of healthy horses on healthy lands, the BLM insists the area needs fewer horses.  

Wild horse advocates disagree, contending these large-scale helicopter roundups are inhumane, and livestock permits are being favored over horses. They believe the horses are better left on the range and away from a federal holding system that contained more than 58,000 formerly wild horses and burros as of June.

“The horses we are seeing captured here are clearly healthy in the wild, but they are dying in captivity in BLM’s custody,” said Scott Wilson, a spokesperson for the American Wild Horse Campaign, referencing horses that died in the BLM’s care this spring.

“This inhumane system needs to change,” he continued. “Congress must hold the BLM accountable for this waste of tax dollars and brutal treatment of these iconic animals.”

Land of tall grass

Shadows shrink as the mid-July sun rises above the high-elevation desert terrain of the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

The area is pinyon-juniper woodland — a biome common across the Western United States dominated by small, bushy evergreen junipers, pinyon pines and sagebrush.

A mustang races across the open range on July 19, 2022, in the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area. The Bureau of Land Management ran a horse gather in the area that began with bait and water trap operations on June 16 and shifted to a drive-trap gather operations using a helicopter July 15. As of Wednesday, July 27, the BLM had rounded up 733 horses including 271 stallions, 326 mares and 136 foals. John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
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Drought conditions have hit the area hard in recent years, but this year the land looks better. Still, BLM officials say it doesn’t meet their goal of a healthy landscape.

The first trap location of the day is off of Rio Blanco County Road 24 in an area called 84 Mesa. White sticks marking oil and gas pipelines are nearly as common as sagebrush in some areas, and brown pipes routinely jut out of the landscape.

The helicopter buzzes around Piceance for about an hour as a small group of observers — two journalists, a photographer, a wild horse advocate and another member of the public — and BLM officials wait for the first group of horses to be brought in.

The viewing area is about 500 yards from the trap. A horse trailer sits between observers and the back end of the trap, blocking much of the view. Advocate Ginger Fedak, Wild Horse and Burro Campaign director for In Defense of Animals, doesn’t think it is a coincidence.

“I keep asking them to move that trailer, and they won’t,” Fedak remarks. “It’s not ideal by any means.”

Observers are told to keep low and blend in with the brush when the helicopter nears. But it never does. After about an hour, the BLM’s contractor, Utah-based Cattoor Livestock Roundup Co., decided it was time to move the trap, which can take hours. BLM officials say they are unsure if the helicopter will take off again on Tuesday.

“There is a good chance we might fly, but what is the temperature like?” Chris Maestas, a public affairs specialist for the BLM based in Craig, asks rhetorically. “We’ve decided here that at 95 degrees, we’re going to stop.”

Accelerated timeline

The gather was initially planned for September, but was moved up.

The accelerated timeline came just days after Gov. Polis asked the BLM to call off the roundup amid 145 horse deaths at the agency’s Cañon City holding facility.

The timing has drawn the ire of advocates who say moving up the roundup was a way to avoid increased scrutiny from a state politician who has been vocal about the BLM’s management of horses for years. A state veterinarian was on site at the gather at Polis’ urging.

Mills, who decided to accelerate the timeline, said the two are unrelated and the timing was “bad luck.”

“Our discussions really drove towards where’s our window of when the horses are going to have the most food in their belly,” Mills said. “We wanted to get them while they had food, so that it wasn’t harder on them.”

Mills said he also considered the foaling season when moving up the gather. The agency’s environmental analysis identified peak foaling season to be from March to the end of June. The helicopter aspect of the roundup started on July 15.

“We won’t gather during peak foaling season,” Mills said. “The reality of this (herd management area) is that foaling happens year-round. As long as we avoid our peak, we’re still going to have some young ones, but we won’t have a lot.”

The BLM estimates there are 1,385 horses in the area, and that doesn’t include foals born this spring. Of the 733 horses gathered so far, 136 of them, or 19%, have been foals.

On Monday, In Defense of Animals released a statement criticizing the accelerated timeline, adding that running from a helicopter in the summer heat is particularly hard on young horses.

“Chasing terrified horses with helicopters over miles of rough ground is cruel and dangerous in any weather,” Fedak said. “Temperatures in the 90s make it even more so, especially for young foals and pregnant mares.”

The second trap

Around noon, with the new trap set up, BLM officials lead the way up a rough stretch of road to a hill near County Road 70.

The jute is set up along an off-road trail, just behind a developed oil and gas site. The observation site is more than a mile away this time, but allows onlookers to see the horses as they run in.

Eric Coulter, a public affairs specialist out of BLM’s Upper Colorado River Field Office, says while farther away, this trap site allows a more complete view of operations. Observers couldn’t see horses running toward the trap in the previous location.

The whirring of the helicopter rises and falls as it flies around looking for horses. When the sound grows louder, the pilot has a group of mustangs headed for the trap.

When the gather is complete, about 300 horses will be given two doses of the fertility treatment GonaCon spaced 30 days apart. This method of fertility control has the potential to last years. Another contraceptive treatment, porcine zona pellucida, PZP, lasts only one year.

When the contractor captures a few groups of horses, it hands sort them by gender, separating the foals from the rest of the group, including their mares. BLM policy requires foals be separated when they’re transported for their safety, Coulter says.

The contractor slowly drives the horses back down CR 70 before heading to a temporary holding corral on private land, away from public view.

Coulter explains the decision to temporarily hold horses on private land was made by the contractor, not the BLM. The location of these corrals was not shared with observers.

“We’ve been trying to work with the private landowners to see if we can do it one day, take people down there,” Coulter says. “I know the private land that it is on; they have a big water source, everything like that. These are contracts, and people do this for profit.”

Timely vaccinations

As of Tuesday, 582 horses from Piceance had been shipped out of Colorado to a holding facility the BLM contracts with in Axtell, Utah.

The facility is being used because the BLM’s facility in Cañon City is still under quarantine after 145 horses died this spring of equine flu. Colorado’s facility is also nearing its 2,600-horse capacity, and the trek to Utah is actually a shorter drive.  

The horses that died were from the West Douglas Herd Area immediately west of Piceance. A BLM Incident Review Team Report of the outbreak found many horses had not received vaccinations despite being at the facility for eight months.

The review says officials opted to delay vaccinations and branding for these horses in order to prepare for more horses arriving at the facility from the Sand Wash Basin and another roundup in Wyoming.

“While the delay is not, in and of itself, a violation of BLM policy, it is an unusually long time for newly arrived horses to remain unvaccinated,” the review says.

The agency started to vaccinated these horses on April 13, just 10 days before the first horse died. The report says 146 horses received their first dose of the vaccine, but the effort was halted as more horses died. Of the 145 dead horses, 47 were partially vaccinated, and 98 were unvaccinated.

Still, the review does not say the outbreak was caused by the lack of vaccination, staffing issues or other challenges at the Cañon City facility.

“It is not clear that any of these challenges by themselves or together caused or worsened the high-mortality event,” the review said.

The review says the BLM needs to better plan for gathers to ensure holding facilities can accommodate rounded up mustangs, among other improvements. Steven Hall, communications director for BLM Colorado, said last month that vaccination with these horses would be a priority.

“I think one of the takeaways from what happened in Cañon City is that we need to be sure that we’re getting horses vaccinated in a more timely fashion,” he said.

‘Kill pens’

After the gather and processing, many of these horses will go into the BLM’s adoption system, which hopes to find good homes for horses to live out the rest of their lives.

In 2021, nearly 7,400 wild horses and burros were adopted and another almost 1,300 were sold into private care. Adoptions are higher than ever, largely fueled by the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which pays adopters $1,000 after a year and was created to lessen the strain on bloated government corrals.

But a New York Times report in May 2021 detailed how some horses adopted through the program have ended up at slaughter auctions. That article was supported by investigative work done by the American Wild Horse Campaign, a leading wild horse protection organization.

The group released more investigative findings on Tuesday, that they say shows the incentive program has become a “pipeline to slaughter.”

AWHC said as many as 840 BLM-branded horses have been identified in advertisements at “kill pens,” with 428 of those being identified by BLM brand or microchip to have been adopted through the adoption incentive program, according to the group’s 19-month investigation dating back to November 2020.

“The findings of our report are irrefutable,” said Amelia Perrin, investigations manager for AWHC. “The BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program has resulted in a flood of wild, untrained mustangs and burros into kill pens selling hundreds — perhaps thousands — of these cherished animals into the slaughter pipeline.”

In the 26-page report, AWHC said it monitored advertisements on Facebook from so-called “kill pens” to identify and track BLM horses, which all receive a similar looking brand on their neck. This information was uploaded to a database where partners could attempt to rescue the horse and obtain its ownership title, which generally includes details of its previous owners.

The campaign also used Freedom of Information Act requests to the BLM to obtain records of horses adopted through the adoption incentive program and compared those with the Facebook ads.

“The BLM is reviewing the report by American Wild Horse Campaign,” the BLM national office said in a statement, provided by Press Secretary Brian Hires in response to questions from Pilot & Today.

“We remain committed to the health and safety of adopted wild horses and burros and have taken steps in recent months to ensure adopters adhere to our requirements to provide a good and caring home,” the statement continues.

The BLM did not address a question asking whether any formerly wild horses have ended up in slaughter.

Adopters can only get four horses in any 12-month period, and are required to wait a year before the horse’s title can be transferred. The reports says the investigation started after receiving reports of increased numbers of BLM horses in kill pens in March 2020, about 12 months after the adoption incentive program started.

Steps taken by the BLM to protect adopted horses include additional compliance visits and increased warnings at sale barns about risks of illegally selling wild horses. Adopters must also certify they “will not knowingly sell or transfer ownership of an adopted animal to any person or organization that intends to resell, trade or give away the animals for slaughter.”

In July 2021, an advisory board to BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program recommended on an 8-1 vote that BLM should pursue “alternative, non-cash incentives to ensure a high standard of welfare for adopted horses.”

“We’re calling for BLM to immediately eliminate cash incentives and make additional adoption program reforms,” Perrin said.

‘Save a horse, hire a cowboy

Calls to change how wild horses and burros are managed have grown louder from elected officials.

In June, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder whose new district includes Steamboat Springs, called on the Piceance gather to be delayed and reevaluated. He has also introduced legislation that would forbid the BLM from using aircraft to gather horses.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat from Las Vegas, whose state has the most wild horses, has proposed overhauling the 1971 law that protects horses. In February, she introduced the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 2022. This too would eliminate helicopter roundups from the BLM’s tool box, instead proposing the BLM employ cowboys on horseback to corral horses.

“Mr. Speaker, put simply, save a horse, hire a cowboy,” Titus said on the House floor when introducing the bill.

But neither effort has advanced in committee, and helicopter roundups remain a pivotal aspect of the BLM’s 18-year plan to get horse populations in the West under control outlined in the 2020 report.

The BLM estimates the cost of the first five years of this plan for the entire Wild Horse and Burro Program — roundups, fertility treatments, adoption programs and caring for unadopted horses — will be about $900 million. Costs will continue to increase until the desired management levels are reached, the report says.

In March, Congress allocated more money to the BLM to manage horses for the third year in a row, including $11 million meant specifically for fertility control.

In 2021, more horses were treated with fertility control than ever before, though the 13,666 horses and burros removed last year dwarf the 1,160 treatments given. This year, the agency hopes to treat 2,299 horses with some form of birth control as it rounds up more than 20,000.

Reversible fertility control is seen by advocates as the best way to manage wild horse populations. It is an ideal method for the BLM as well, but it isn’t a tactic that can reduce populations, the report says.

“We want to manage through herd fertility control and direct adoptions,” Mills said. “That’s our future.”

A new model for Piceance

Whether the Piceance-East Douglas gather will be Colorado’s last helicopter roundup is still up in the air.

Steven Hall, communications director for BLM Colorado, said contraception is more viable with strong local partnerships like the agency has in Colorado’s other herd management areas. Still, another helicopter round up is not out of the question.

“We hope to see similar results in Piceance and Sand Wash when numbers are lower and more manageable,” Hall said. “Helicopter gathers are a safe, effective means of managing wild horse populations with serious injuries and fatalities roughly comparable to bait-trap operations.”

Mills said he hopes to avoid another helicopter roundup in Piceance. He said the main two management tools for the area are fertility control and direct adoptions. The former hopes to get a head start after this roundup when the BLM releases 300 horses that have been given fertility treatments.

Volunteers from the local group Piceance Mustangs help the BLM with some of these treatments and other monitoring of the horses.

Mills said they are training BLM firefighters to dart horses with fertility treatments as well. Of the 150 horses darted in Piceance last year, 75% were darted by volunteers and the rest by BLM firefighters, Mills said.

Next spring, Mills said officials will do another population scan in Piceance to get a good handle of how many horses are left, and an indication of how successful contraceptive efforts have been.

Mills’ vision for direct adoptions also differs from how things are carried out now.

In an ideal situation, horses wouldn’t leave Northwest Colorado until they are adopted, Mills said. Instead of large gathers, Mills said they would employ smaller, generally less controversial, bait-and-trap gathers, taking a few dozen horses at a time.

The Piceance gather started with a bait-and-trap method, which only yielded 18 horses. But once the herd is within the areas management levels, Mills said, frequent gathers like this, and maybe even a permanent bait-and-trap location in the basin could more effectively manage the horses.

“We would gather horses, we’d bring in our own vet, do what we have to do with the horses, treat them, make sure they are healthy — there’s a lot of vaccinations and such — and then we go to a direct adoption like the Meeker Mustang Makeover,” Mills said.

“We say, were going to go out and catch 20 for you, and instead of sending them to a holding facility, we can treat them locally if we have the capacity,” Mills continued. “Just go direct with our horses, from our herd to our adoption events.”

Still, that ideal scenario is dependent on funding. The funds for these roundups come from the state office, not out of the field office’s budget. For a direct adoption system to work, the field office would need to have the funding and the staffing to do it, Mills said.

“The future is still a ways off for us,” Mills said. “We’ve had that discussion a lot in the last six months about what would be the best way to manage (the Piceance herd) and it would be not having helicopters and being able to control the population with direct adoptions.”

To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.

Aspen couple begins rebuilding process after horrific tragedy

Clint Coerdt and Kate Sartain were wearing clothes their friends gave them, sitting on the porch of an Aspen home another friend is letting them use for the remainder of the summer and into the fall. They were just six weeks removed from the most horrific day of their lives, and they were grateful.

“Every single thing you see us wearing right now, it’s because someone in Aspen or someone donated from afar,” Sartain said Friday next to her fiance, who is recovering from burn injuries he suffered from a tragic house fire in the early-morning hours of June 13. “We had nothing.”

Coerdt, 40, lost his mother, Suni, and father, Henry. Sartain’s two dogs died, their ranch home was destroyed and third-degree burns cover 44% of Coerdt’s body.

A nearby barn also was totally destroyed, as well as an RV camper parked between the two structures.

The totality of the couple’s emotional and physical suffering would easily be enough to make them curl up in self pity.

These two, however, refuse to entertain that option. They have a network of friends who won’t let them, either. Their friends provide them daily dinners through a meal train. Some other friends got them a yurt for their ranch property. Others set up a GoFundMe account that as of Wednesday morning had generated $432,689 in donations via 1,400 contributors.

“The community is not going to let us fail,” Sartain said. “What success means to me and Clint, success obviously means Clint healing, which he will, and he will be making a complete recovery. I think success is Kate and Clint rebuilding the ranch, and success is obviously being part of this community and giving back to us what they have given us during this tragedy.”

In the weeks and days leading up to that fateful Monday morning in Old Snowmass, the engaged couple were both elated about the moment they were living in and excited about what the future held. It would all unravel in a matter of minutes.

“We worked relentlessly on that place,” said Coerdt, who bought the property in July 2020. He and Sartain became engaged a week later. “We wanted to make a happy little farm. We had gotten goats three days before the fire, and we were working on fences.”

Their upcoming mid-August wedding weekend, set for a ceremony in Emma on a Saturday and a grand celebration at the newlywed couple’s ranch the next day, would have to wait.

“This tragedy is so layered in so many ways,” said Sartain, 37, trying to fight back tears. “It’s a horrible tragedy to lose your parents together, and my dogs, my Bernese mountain dog (Vincent) and Tango was a rescue from Lucky Day (Animal Rescue). Losing my dogs, they even went to the grocery store with me. They were my everything.”

There has yet to be a funeral or memorial service for Coerdt’s parents. The couple wants to do it the proper way and not rush it. But now is not the time. There are mounds of insurance and estate matters to address, not to mention the healing process and the emotional toll.

Kate then looked toward Clint. She rested her right hand on his left thigh.

“Losing a dog is very sad or losing your home or suffering this type of injury,” she said. “All of those in their own way are horrible. Put it all together and it happens in one minute in your life, there are just so many layers that come come with it.”

Coerdt and Sartain didn’t know each other until they moved to the Aspen area in the early 2010s seeking that Colorado mountain lifestyle defined by outdoors and community.

Coerdt had moved to Colorado from the Cleveland area, and Sartain, raised in Maryland, relocated from Washington, D.C.

Given their parents were from different parts of the country, they had not met each other until June. The two families had a lot of getting-to-know-each-other to do — Coerdt and Sartain, after all, were getting married Aug. 19.

That their parents met for the first time in June had been cause for elation. Sartain and Coerdt also were giddy about where they were building their lives together, in an idyllic setting in Old Snowmass encompassing nearly 40 acres with trails to explore and mushrooms to pick, and places for Coerdt to hunt, land for their own garden to tend, and ample space for goats and future livestock to roam and be raised.

“The lead-up to the fire was one of the coolest experiences we had ever had,” recalled Coerdt, who had built up a loyal following as a bartender at Steakhouse 316 in Aspen. “The six, seven days of our parents hanging out, my parents helping me with stuff on the ranch, having dinners, porch time. We did a major event Saturday night at Steakhouse where my parents got to meet a lot of my longtime bar guests, people that I’d known for many years.

“My mom and dad had a blast.”

Added Sartain: “And they were proud of that ranch.”

On June 11, Sartain’s parents returned home to Maryland. Coerdt’s parents were staying on the ranch that week, and on June 12 while he was working, Sartain enjoyed the day with her future in-laws.

“Suni and Henry and I went to Steakhouse and had an awesome dinner and went back to the ranch and that day — we had an excavator on the property that we had rented — and we had just gotten the goats,” Sartain said. “So Henry and I walked around the ranch and looked at some of the projects that got done that day … and Suni and I went to put the goats to bed, and the three of us sat on the porch until it was bedtime. It was a very uneventful evening, to say the least.”

By 1 a.m., Clint had returned home from work. Nothing seemed unusual or out of the ordinary when he went to bed, he recalled. All of the home’s three bedrooms were on the top floor.

“The next thing I know,” Sartain said, “is I wake up. I’m the first one to wake up, there was smoke pouring through the windows, and I just started screaming,”

Sartain woke up Coerdt and banged on his parents’ bedroom door.

“I knew they were asleep, and I was trying to get them up,” she said.

At the time the house was quiet, but the smell of the smoke was building.

“You couldn’t hear a thing, and it was so quiet,” Coerdt said. “You could only smell smoke and didn’t think it was anything big, and I raced to the basement, grabbed the fire extinguisher and when I looked out, our garage had a garage door with a window on it. I opened the window and looked out, and the whole porch was on fire.”

By that time, Sartain had retreated outside. The heat had become unbearable.

“I ran upstairs to their bedroom to try and get my parents out of there,” said Coerdt. “And I was immediately hit by a heat blast. I didn’t burn in flames. These were all heat-related injuries. The thing just hit me, and I remember I bumped into my dad in the hallway, and I jumped through the window and rolled off the roof and landed on the gravel.”

Sartain was right where Coerdt landed.

“He fell at my feet,” Sartain said, “and he started screaming ‘jump, jump!’, trying to get his parents to jump, and I heard his mom, and they just couldn’t make it. They couldn’t make it. It literally happened so fast.”

“We had under a minute to get out of the house,” Coerdt added. “It went from sleeping to being right outside.”

Coerdt, meanwhile, was in extreme pain from the burns. By this time the home was engulfed in fire.

In the back of Coerdt’s Tacoma, which was parked on the property, were 15 gallons of diesel gas cans to load up the excavator for the next day’s projects. Another 10 gallons of gas were in the home’s garage, and four or five propane tanks were in the vicinity for the gas-powered equipment.

Coerdt believes the fire spread from the home’s porch into the front room on the ground level, and then over the deck and into the bedrooms upstairs.

“The windows on the backside of the house were open so they were just sucking everything,” he said. “But there was not spitting or anything like that, it was like a blue and yellow orange wave going through the house. It was so surreal that I’d never seen anything like that.

“Usually when you see a fire like that, it’s big and angry. This was just quiet. Even when the house was on fire, we didn’t hear it,” Coerdt continued. “There was no crackling or exploding or anything like that; it was just air sucking through and heat building from those tinder-dry logs that the house was built out of.”

Living in a remote area, the couple jumped in their Jeep and looked for help and found some neighbors who called 911. Coerdt and Sartain’s cellphones were inside the house.

“It hurt, but I wasn’t screaming,” Coerdt said.

When paramedics arrived, Coerdt refused aid and got on the gurney under his own power.

“If you tried to touch me, my skin was going to fall off,” he said.

Coerdt was rushed to Aspen Valley Hospital and then airlifted to a Denver hospital with an ICU burn unit.

He was there for 27 days, and he will continue treatment for the foreseeable future.

His back was nearly completely scorched; it has since been grafted with good skin. Both of his burnt arms are dressed with compression. He routinely does physical therapy. Mornings can be especially rough. He often wakes up stiff and in pain.

“The morning is the hardest part of the day,” Sartain said. “His wounds require about three or four hours of treatment every morning.”

Coerdt goes for short walks when he can. But he can’t go outdoors when the sun is shining because of his skin’s sensitivity.

The couple went to the ranch last week. They already are looking to rebuild but know it will take time.

“People come out of the woodworks that you would never expect to hear from,” Sartain said. “And we just thought, we’re going to hang a sign over the front door of the house that says ‘The House That Aspen Built,’ because it truly is.

“In every sense of the word, we’re saying ‘The House that Aspen Built’ not just because of the financial help but even the emotional support that has been provided to us,” she continued. “A meal train, people signing up to bring us food. Or the month that he was in the hospital, where people were making sure I was OK in the hotel and not alone.”

Coerdt’s parents were both retired when they died. His father was 75 and his mother 70. They also were grandparents to Coerdt’s sister’s two children. His sister, Chapin, and mother were best friends, Coerdt said.

The couple plan to build a memorial meadow on their ranch where they will spread some of the ashes of Coerdt’s parents.

“It sucks losing your parents,” he said. “But the saving grace is they went out together. They were so in love that they wouldn’t have survived without each other.”

The fire was reported to emergency dispatchers at 2:15 a.m. on June 13. The cause of the fire has not been determined. Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Benjamin, who has led the investigation, said the devastation was so thorough that he doesn’t know if the cause ever will be known.

Coerdt and Sartain still plan to wed Aug. 19 but without the pageantry and fanfare. They hope to do that around August next year and also celebrate the lives of Suni and Henry.

On June 10, three days before the fire permanently altered their lives, life was good and their future oozed with promise and excitement.

“We had a Polaris (ATV), and our nightly routine when Clint wasn’t working was to go to the Polaris with the dogs in the back,” Sartain said. “And we’d go to the monastery and we’d do this really awesome ride, we called it a safari, and you saw from the top the first sunset and the gongs would go on in the monastery as they’re doing prayer, and I remember looking at Clint literally three days before this happened and said, ‘It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?’ It was truly pure happiness, looking down.”

Then came the early-morning hours of June 13, one that is shrouded in mystery because the cause of the fire remains unknown. For Sartain and Coerdt, however, that is of little or no concern.

“At the end of the day, when people ask me if it bothers me that I don’t know what caused it, I don’t want to know,” Sartain said. “I actually have a peace of mind not knowing what caused it. Nothing is going to change, and what happened in our lives is not going to change. Our focus is to not be angry and not let anything hold us back. We can’t hold any anger.”

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Fiesta time: Aspen Musical Festival and School hosts a free community concert with mariachi band, dancers and food

The Aspen Music Festival and School will host a concert featuring the Denver-based mariachi band Mariachi Sol de mi Tierra, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklórico and 40 students who have been attending mariachi workshops since Monday. The culmination of the “De Colores! A Mariachi Celebration” event takes place Wednesday in the Benedict Music Tent, beginning with a pre-concert fiesta at 4 p.m. and concert at 5:30. 

“In wanting to really do this workshop well, we knew that we needed some professional mariachi musicians and hopefully a professional intact ensemble to be able to get a totally authentic mariachi sound into these students’ ears,” said Katie Hone-Wiltgen, dean of Education and Community. “Live mariachi is something that we just don’t hear very often in the Roaring Fork Valley, and yet it’s something that is such a huge part of Mexican culture and Mexican music in general.”

The performance, which is free and open to all ages, will be the culmination of three days of workshops for third through 12th graders from Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The workshop is free for all participating students, including instruction and borrowed instruments, if necessary. Though students of all skill levels are welcome, they are all instrumentalists and singers. 

Throughout the workshop, mariachi specialists from the Denver area have been teaching the students how to play traditional mariachi pieces and instruments, such as the vihuela and guitarrón. At the beginning of the concert, the students will perform the three pieces that they learned alongside Mariachi Sol de mi Tierra. Following that, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklórico will perform with the band and, finally, the band will perform by themselves.

Six local teachers from AMFS are also attending the workshop to learn mariachi techniques and pedagogy. Teachers wanting to learn about mariachi currently have very limited opportunities to do so, and it can be costly — they must travel to Denver or California in order to find mariachi specialists, according to Hone-Wiltgen.

“Local teachers will be able to start bringing some of these concepts and these materials and this repertoire into their own classrooms and hopefully then we’ll be able to spearhead a program through the music festival that keeps mariachi happening year-round,” Hone-Wiltgen said.

The event has been in the works for three-and-a-half years, according to Hone-Wiltgen. She saw the need to create the event since a large portion of the students and families served by AMFS are Latino.

“I think it’s our responsibility at AMFS to be creating programming and educational opportunities that are culturally reflective of the population that we serve,” Hone-Wiltgen said. “Being able to bring mariachi programming to students — both Latino and Anglo students alike — is a way that we can celebrate mariachi music, celebrate Mexican culture and really intentionally build programming that meets the needs of the students that are here.”

The event was planned almost entirely remotely with Michael Linert, director of orchestras and mariachi at Westminster High School in Westminster. Hone-Wiltgen said she was very impressed with him when she first encountered him at a music educators’ conference, where he presented on mariachi education. Linert will also bring four teaching assistants who are alumni of Westminster High School.

Celebrating Mexican culture and heritage falls under the AMFS’ inclusion, diversity, equity and access initiative, which seeks out ways to support community and build opportunities that are culturally responsive, according to Hone-Wiltgen. The event is also supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, although that only covers about one eighth of the total cost, according to Hone-Wiltgen.

“It’s an expensive endeavor for sure, but absolutely worth it,” she said.

Several community partners will be at the pre-concert fiesta event with various activities and booths: Anderson Ranch will host a Mexican folkloric art project, the Basalt Regional Library and Pitkin County Library will both host bilingual story times, English in Action will provide information about the organization and how to get involved and Taqueria El Yaqui will be on-site with a food truck. There will also be activities such as face painting, balloon animals, an instrument “petting zoo” and a mariachi coloring station for children.

Hone-Wiltgen, who has endured “constant Zooms and thousands of emails” to plan the event, said she is excited to finally see the result of years of planning. Her ultimate goal is for AMFS to provide year-round mariachi programming to the community.

“We’re all coming together,” she said. “It’s the tapestry, the interweaving of cultures and of arts programs here in the valley and really a highlight of what makes this place a great place to live and to raise kids and to learn.”

IF YOU GO:

What: Community Concert: ‘De Colores! A Mariachi Celebration’

When: 5:30 p.m. (4 p.m. pre-concert fiesta with community partners)

Where: Benedict Music Tent

Cost: Free and open to the public; food and beverage are available for purchase from Taqueria El Yaqui food truck

More info: aspenmusicfestival.com

PHOTOS: A taste of the Wild West at the Carbondale Rodeo

IF YOU GO:

When: Every Thursday until Aug. 18
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Grand entry at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Gus Darien Riding Arena
1151 County Road 100 (Catherine Store Road)
Carbondale

Cost: Individual tickets are $10. Children 10 and under are free.

Every Thursday evening, the setting sun illuminates the dust-filled air rising from the grounds of the Gus Darien arena in Carbondale. Locals and visitors fill the stands, and tailgaters fire up barbecues — all for a chance to experience a taste of the Wild West.

From the crow’s nest high above the arena comes Branden Edwards’ official announcement that it’s rodeo time.

“Every single Thursday here at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo we start with one beautiful thing; with honor, with pride and excitement, we ring the bell to say it’s rodeo time,” Edwards says over the loudspeaker.

A break away roper competes at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

With the hopes of keeping the Roaring Fork Valley’s rich western heritage alive, the Carbondale rodeo started in 2003 and was revamped into a nonprofit two years later to officially become the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo Association.

Carbondale resident Sarvary Koller attends the rodeo a couple of times a year to cheer on her neighbor who takes part in the roping events.

A bull rider holds on tight during their eight-second ride at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“We come to see him and really just support the awesome local culture of the rodeo,” Koller said. “It’s almost like the Wild West.”

The rodeo goes on weekly, rain or shine, from June to August and features the typical competitive events ranging from bull and bronc riding to team and ribbon roping and mutton busting for the kids.

A young team roper races after a steer before the start of the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A young mutton buster sits and waits for the start of the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A father and son cowboy duo sit behind the arena before the start of the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A young cowgirl watches as the steers go through the alleyway before the start of the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A pair of team ropers work together at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A saddle bronc rider holds on tight in hopes of making the eight seconds at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A cowboy warms up for an event at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The full crowd acknowledges the National Anthem at the start of the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A bull rider bursts from the chutes and holds on for the eight seconds at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent