Carbondale rodeo ropes small-town authenticity |

Carbondale rodeo ropes small-town authenticity

For the 12th year, the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo returns to the Gus Darien Riding Arena just off County Road 100 every Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.

The Carbondale rodeo is described as a true hometown event and the thing to do on Thursday nights during the summer in the small town, while looking to keep the Western heritage alive in the area.

What’s great about the rodeo in Carbondale, fans and organizers say, is the up close experience spectators get with the competitors, whether it’s rubbing elbows with them outside the arena or being able to back trucks and trailers right up to the arena fences to get a front-row view that is rare at a bigger venue.

“It’s first-come, first-serve and costs just $20 for the campground-style parking around the fences,” rodeo board treasurer Tom Harrington said. “It’s a great thing to take advantage of by getting a front-row seat to the rodeo.”

Along with the up-close parking, the atmosphere is different from others, with the makeup of spectators representing a broader range than most rodeos attract.

“The diverse group that comes to watch it makes it so unique,” rodeo board president Mike Kennedy said. “We have locals come and watch, but we also have people from Grand Junction, the Front Range and even Sweden. We have rich people, poor people, young people and old people coming out each Thursday night to see this.”

Returning to the grounds are some familiar faces, led by fan-favorite Greg Casteel, a 54-year-old bull rider who just so happened to get into the Guinness Book of World Records at the Carbondale Rodeo for the oldest bull rider ever. Joining Casteel will be local stars Max MacDonnell, the cousin combination of Ted and Matt Nieslanik, Court Will and many more who will likely compete before a weekly crowd of almost 1,000 each Thursday night.

Outside of the usual rodeo competitions such as bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping and more, this year’s rodeo again features a kid-friendly riding experience on horses, “A Time to Ride,” presented by the Alpine Animal Hospital, which will run for at least the first four weeks of season.

“We do this to give kids the chance to get up close and personal with animals that they might not get the chance to otherwise,” rodeo board secretary Melanie Cardiff said. “They’re scheduled to be here for the first four weeks, so the veterinarian staff will let the kids pet and ride the horses. That’s a pretty fun thing for people to experience.”

Back for another year is the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink Event,” which takes place July 21. This marks the ninth year of the event. As usual, everyone is asked to wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. All proceeds from the night will go to Valley View Hospital’s Calaway-Young cancer center. The hospital is one of the main sponsors for the annual nonprofit rodeo.

“They’ll be there as part of the event and then at the end of the rodeo season we’ll give all our proceeds to the hospital,” Cardiff added. “It’s a Wrangler-sanctioned event, so we have to do it in conjunction with them, but most of the cowboys and cowgirls where pink, and a doctor from the cancer center comes in to talk about breast cancer.”

On top of fun events throughout the summer involving the rodeo, in-arena acts such as Jon Carr’s rodeo clown comedy act and the possibility of the One-Armed Bandit making an appearance are on the docket. The board hopes to bring in John Payne and his bandit act.

“A lot of in just depends on when they’re in the area,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes we don’t know that they’ll be in the area until one or two weeks before, but we leave it open for things like that.”

Every Thursday night at the rodeo grounds in Carbondale will be a family-friendly environment and the show will go on rain or shine.

“It’s just amazing the amount of people that come out and support us in this community,” Harrington said. “It’ll be the same cool, small-town rodeo each and every week. We’re looking forward to another great season.”

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