A wild ride at the rodeo | PostIndependent.com

A wild ride at the rodeo

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Big bulls, crazy cowboys and buckin’ broncos. Yupperoo buckeroo, that there must mean the rodeo’s back in town.

No bull. The cowboys and cowgirls were primed and ready for action during the 106th annual Strawberry Days Rodeo, held Friday and Saturday at the Glenwood Springs Rodeo Arena.

The event brings Colorado Professional Rodeo Association riders, ropers, clowns and bullfighters from all over the state to compete for a space in the regional finals, which will be held in Grand Junction in September.

It also raises money for the Garfield County 4-H Horse Judging Team.

On Friday, the event started off with a bang as cowboys tested their mettle and strength by trying to ride a 2,000-pound bull for eight seconds.

The riders are only allowed to hold on to a rope tied onto the massive animals with one hand. If their other hand touches the bull, they’re disqualified.

Matt McCabe, a 16-year-old bull rider from Loma, had to sit out the weekend’s events because of a concussion. He described the pre-ride preparations of bull riders.

“You just stretch out and get prepared,” he said. “You warm up your rope and get ready.”

Once bucked off – which happened in a much shorter time for some riders than others – it’s time for the bullfighters and rodeo clowns to take over.

“My job is to distract the bull for a couple of seconds so the bull rider doesn’t get hurt,” said 26-year-old rodeo clown Chris Burke, of Moriarty, N.M. “We run around looking pretty funny, but my job is pretty serious.”

That’s the story for all the jobs around the bucking chutes, the area where the huge animals are released.

While the crowd is laughing and cheering, people working at the bucking chutes are all business.

Burke said clowning is a dangerous job, but he loves it.

“I wake up every morning, and that’s what I wake up for,” he said.

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Burke said while he’s not very funny, his partner clown Richard “Stitch” Poston evokes enough laughs for the both of them.

“Pretty much you just get out there and have fun,” Poston said. “You can’t do it if you don’t love it.”

Another helper on the sidelines was rodeo chairman and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.

Vallario was injured at the 2002 Strawberry Days Rodeo when a bull squished him in a gate, so he hoped for better luck this year.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it keeps kids off the streets,” he said of the Garfield County 4-H program. Vallario appeared a bit quicker this year, even with some misbehaving bulls.

The bulls sport names like “Refugee” and “Lexus,” but none gave the cowboys a smooth ride.

“They’re powerful,” Vallario said, speaking from experience.

The stands remained full for the ensuing events, which included calf roping, bareback riding, women’s breakaway, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, mixed team roping, team roping, ladies barrel racing and ended where it began, with bull riding.

“We love all of it, really,” said Darlene Martino of Glenwood Springs, who used to run the rodeo with her dad Primo and other family members. “So, yeah, we know a little about it.”

Martino said her family did everything, right down to selling the tickets. She also said the life of a rodeo cowboy is a tough one and their careers are short.

“Bull riders probably get beat up the worst,” she said. “The horse will try to miss you. But that bull, it’ll kill you.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511


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