A close-knit community at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo
From the moment I entered Gus Darien Riding Arena, on the outskirts of downtown Carbondale, I knew I was in for an experience far different from what I usually cover. My first observation was that everyone seems to know one another.
People are buzzing around, walking all around the arena and bumping into other individuals who they greet with a hug or handshake. It’s the type of atmosphere portrayed on television at small town high school football games. An atmosphere of a tight-knit community.
There are young children, old people, as well as middle-aged individuals. Some look like they are dressed for the pool in shorts and a T-shirt with flip flops, while others are clad in typical rodeo attire: cowboy hats and boots.
The stands are overflowing with 2,000 smiling faces. Grand Entry hasn’t started, but people line up along the fences or stand in the back of their pickup truck beds. Many get snow cones to cool off from the warm weather while the sticky sugary syrup drips into the dusty dirt.
Soren Bevan, from Silt, is a 13-year-old who competes regularly in the Wild West rodeo. Bevan competes in team roping, breakaway and dally ribbon roping. Bevan stood out among the crowd as he walked the grounds of the rodeo whipping his lasso around, a bright smile on his face a mile wide.
Bevan said he has been competing in rodeos since he was born but thinks what makes the Carbondale Wild West rodeo stand out from the others in the area are the large number of “friendly people who attend the rodeos and make the rodeo feel like a community.”
The crowd erupts into a mix of applause and cheers for the Grand Entry. Cowboys and cowgirls on horseback stampede in circles, racing along the fence inches away from the crowd, kicking up dust while their hair blows back.
“This rodeo allows brothers and sisters to stand side by side for a moment where it doesn’t matter where you may be from, or what God you may believe in.” The voice of the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo, Branden Edwards, shouts from on high to the response of high pitched whistles from the crowd.
“Carbondale rodeo is a cool venue as it’s in the mountains, and it stays pretty cool up here,” said Justice Cooper, a young bull rider from Golden, Colorado. “The sense of community also ranks eight out of 10 in my book compared to the other rodeos I go to in the state of Colorado and Wyoming.”
Marty Stouffer, who many may know from the widely popular PBS show “Wild America” in the ’80s and ’90s, is a regular at the Carbondale Rodeo with his house almost within eyeshot of the rodeo arena.
Stouffer grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which has one of the largest rodeo venues in the world in Harper Stadium.
“This rodeo is different as it is very local. Here I am leaning against this truck just enjoying coming out to the rodeo and people watching; looking at all the young people and the children running around. Other rodeos in the area attract a lot more tourists, and this rodeo is more local, and that is a nice thing.” Stouffer said of the Carbondale Rodeo. “There is absolutely a sense of community here.”
When: every Thursday night through Aug. 19
Gates open at 5:30 p.m., slack starts at 6 p.m., and Grand Entry begins at 7 p.m.
Where: Gus Darien Riding Arena, County Road 100 (Catherine Store Road) Carbondale
Why: To feel like you are now a part of a distinctive community, even if you may actually be an outsider looking in.
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