Cowboy up at the Garfield County Fair & Rodeo |

Cowboy up at the Garfield County Fair & Rodeo

Niki TurnerSpecial to the Post IndependentGlenwood Springs, Colorado CO

RIFLE, Colorado – The 74th annual Garfield County Fair & Rodeo is in full swing today through Sunday at the county fairgrounds in Rifle, with live bands, a full-event rodeo, the demolition derby and a day of draft horse events.A swing through the fairgrounds also gives the fair-goer a chance to browse the merchant and community organization booths, check out the open class and 4-H entries, and grab some good eats and a refreshing glass of beer at the beer garden and food court.Climb into your jeans and boots, snap up your shirt, clamp down that cowboy hat and boot-scoot yourself to Rifle for the whole county’s annual celebration of Western culture.

The 4-H Beef Show kicks of the day, and booths open at noon. Entertainment starts in the mid-afternoon with a troupe of local Mexican folklorico dancers performing in the Backstage area.Grupo Folklorico Sol de Mexico is a regional Latino dance group for children based in Rifle and led by Jessica Hernandez. First introduced to folklorico dancing when she was in high school, Hernandez wanted to keep the culture of folklorico alive with the next generation. In May 2011 when she posted a call for young dancers, 77 youngsters called and a group of 27 dancers, ages 3 to 13, now perform as Sol de Mexico. They perform dances from the different regions of Mexico.Next up for country fans is the home-grown sound and style of Bill Pugh and Friends. Bill Pugh, owner of Bill’s Cowboy Steakhouse in New Castle, formed the band a little over a year ago. “We all have jobs, businesses, families and required activities, but we try to make time for a little music and fun. Most everyone in the band is a beginner that has worked hard to learn a variety of songs mostly country, or not, with a country feel,” Pugh said. The day’s big event is the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association rodeo, which marks a return after several years of only bull riding competition.Rodeo has been around for more than a century, partly because its events were born out of the real life work performed on ranches every day, and partly because it’s a spectator sport like no other. It’s a night of thrills, spills and glory with steer wrestling, tie-down roping, bull riding, team roping, bareback riding, breakaway roping, mixed team roping, saddle bronc riding and ladies’ barrel racing. Starting with less than five rodeos in 1975, CPRA now sanctions 30 rodeos per year while maintaining a growing membership of approximately 600. CPRA finals takes place each September, held around the state. The top 12 contestants in each event compete for year-end and finals championship awards along with prize money. Tonight, the top five boys and top five girls from Monday’s mutton bustin’ competition at the Family Rodeo will be competing tonight for the championship title.Closing the evening at the Backstage area will be one of the most in-demand party bands in the region, Already Gone from Gypsum. The band covers songs that weave through classic rock, R&B, funk, blues, country crossover and rock ‘n’ roll. Already Gone is composed of drummer Eddie Muniz, Jean Graca on bass, lead guitarist Mark Chenoweth, Randy DeHerrera on alto sax and keyboards, and fronted by vocalist Lisa Popish.

Saturday starts with the annual parade on Railroad Avenue, and the Classic car Show will be in Metro Park.Youngsters involved in 4-H will bid goodbye to their project animals, and hope to bring home cash with the 4-H Junior Livestock Sale.More entertainment cranks up in the afternoon with two live rock ‘n’ roll bands.Specializing in high-energy country and classic rock since 2006, the Back Country Band from Vernal, Utah, makes a return appearance this year. Founding members are Jim Still on rhythm guitar, steel guitar and vocals, Lynn Locke on lead guitar and vocals, and drummer Tyke Kargis. Newer additions to the group are Bob Halbert, a former Glenwood Springs police chief, on lead guitar, and Randy Millicham on bass guitar.Fifty50 follows up. The Glenwood Springs band plays a mix of classic rock and roll to creative originals. The band includes David Stoltzfus on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, lead vocalist Beth Getzen Stoltzfus, guitarist and lead vocalist Dale Loper, drummer Jerry Larsen, Brian Brown on vocals and bass, and Mike King on vocals and keyboard. The last Saturday event is the Demolition Derby, and those who want to attend are advised to buy tickets in advance, as this event usually sells out.The derby gives local drivers a chance to “crash it out” using junker cars. As a sport, demolition derby has few rules, with most regulations focusing on the cars’ composition and not on the actual action on the track. Competitors have traditionally used full-size, American-made sedans and wagons, especially the big, heavy, robust models from the 1960s and ’70s. A vehicle may be patched up and re-used for several events.Pit crews have to work together efficiently in order to repair heat-winning cars so they can return to compete in the feature event. Drivers are required to wear a seat belt and helmet. An event begins with drivers lined up in the arena with their tail lights facing each other. They begin in reverse and start crashing into each other. Drivers are usually required to crash into another vehicle every two minutes or they are labeled as “sandbagging” and become disqualified. The last running car wins the event.

Sunday is all about horses – big, stocky horses showing off their strength and agility in a variety of competitions. Featuring the workhorses of yesteryear, the draft horse pull runs through the late morning and afternoon, starting with the Shire Regional Halter Show. The Farm Show resumes at 1 p.m. with halter classes, including Western riding, Draft English riding, horsecarts, Gambler’s Choice obstacle rides, farm teams running obstacles and skidding logs, heavy horse barrel racing and bareback riding, and a heavy horse egg and spoon race. The musical entertainment lineup wraps up with the Steve Skinner Stimulus Package of Glenwood Springs. The lineup of frontman Steve Skinner, drummer Corey Spagnolo, Louie Girardot on bass guitar, lead and backing vocals, and Frank Martin on guitar, is a coming together of band leaders with a dash of California studio musician thrown in for flavor. Their repertoire is peppered with original contributions aimed at the funny bone and Skinner’s “resort rock.” From professional rodeo riders pitted against feisty bulls and horses, to watching your friends and neighbors battle it out behind the wheel at the demolition derby, to hearing hopping-good bands from around the region, even being a spectator at the fair can be a thrilling experience.Don’t miss it!

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