Carbondale rodeo series gallops into town tonight |

Carbondale rodeo series gallops into town tonight

Photo courtesy Shorty Williams/Sopris Photography

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” John Canning recalls growing up in rural New Mexico where cowboys would literally “circle the wagons,” or in this case pickup trucks, and make a rodeo arena if there wasn’t one nearby.

“Every little town had their own rodeo,” he said. “And a lot of the original rodeos were in these makeshift arenas.”

That’s sort of what it’s like at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo, which kicks off its seventh season tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Gus Darien Riding Arena on County Road 100 east of town. The series continues on Thursday nights through Aug. 20.

Although there is an actual fenced arena with all the amenities, some of the spectators who are lucky enough to stake a claim will back their trucks right up to the fence and invite their friends and family to hop in for a prime viewing spot.

“It’s just a great social event with a lot of local flavor,” said Canning, a regular participant in the team roping event at Carbondale. “What I like about it is that it’s truly for the locals. It’s the place to be on Thursday nights in Carbondale.”

Canning is also the director of the Snowmass summer rodeo series, and said the Roaring Fork Valley is fortunate to have two regular rodeo series.

While the Wednesday night Snowmass rodeo is a great place to introduce tourists to a bit of western heritage, Carbondale is unique for its family-oriented flair.

Tina Collins and her family have been coming up from New Castle to the Carbondale rodeo since its inception seven years ago.

“We’ve been doing Snowmass for a long time, but Carbondale gave us another night of rodeo,” she said. “It’s a little different, more of a family rodeo.”

Collins is the defending barrel racing champion headed into this season, but said she will be riding a new colt this year.

“My good horse is down, so it will be interesting to see how this horse does his first year out,” she said.

The Carbondale Wild West Rodeo is produced by a not-for-profit, volunteer association. This year, the rodeo association has improved the parking policies around the arena fence to ensure more folks have a chance to back up their truck. As usual, though, there are also plenty of bleacher seats.

And, anyone who is inclined to bike out to the rodeo arena on the Rio Grande Trail can now safely get across the county road, thanks to a new trail link and road crossing, according to event marketing director Kathy Small.

In addition to team roping, bull riding and barrel racing for adult competitors, plus kids mutton bustin’ and the calf chase, new this year will be a break-away roping event for girls ages 8-16 and boys ages 8-14.

“This is a fast-action event where the kids need speed and precision to win,” said rodeo association vice president Mike Kennedy.

The 2009 Rodeo Royalty includes Chantri Knotts, who is this year’s Rodeo Queen. Emily Schwaller is Queen Attendant and the Princesses are Ashlyn Gerbaz and Madilyn Kuhl.

Rodeo T-shirts and caps will be offered for sale, with merchandise sales proceeds going to three local charities ” Tom’s Door, Black Sheep 4H and Wind Walkers.

Admission prices and contestant entry fees are the same as the last several years. “The car load price of $25 for up to six people offers a real bargain,” association president Dave Weimer said. Children under age 10 are free.

Next week, June 11, the Carbondale Rodeo welcomes trick rider Sally Bishop. She will perform 4-up Roman riding, where she rides four horses at the same time.

And, for the third year in a row, there will be a celebration for breast cancer survivors at the July 16 rodeo, called “The Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo.” A portion of the gate proceeds that night will go the Aspen Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For The Cure, and admission will be free for breast cancer survivors.

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

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