Garfield County hopes to draw Colorado HS rodeo championship
Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson hopes that a $3 million investment in the Garfield County Fairgrounds pays off for the county and his native Rifle with new events that draw crowds from around the state and region.
“As a kid growing up and going to school here I remember walking by or driving by the fairgrounds, it was always empty except fair days,” he told the Rifle City Council on Wednesday. “Even as I young kid I thought, ‘Jeez, we never use it.’ ”
Samson pushed to see the fairgrounds become more of a centerpiece not just for the county, but for all of western Colorado. With the county putting an estimated $3 million into the complex over the past three years, his vision is starting to take shape.
“Everything you guys have done over there is really nice,” said Mayor Randy Winkler. “The landscaping, the entrances, the parking, everything. That’s why you are getting more people. It’s money well spent and done right.”
Some of the improvements to the fairgrounds include new stalls for horses and livestock, a new PA system, improvements to the indoor arena and a northeast entrance on 12th Street that is currently under construction.
Samson expects the construction to be completed in time for the county’s Fair and Rodeo from July 31 through Aug. 6.
“This will make the fairgrounds much more accessible,” Samson explained. “I’ve wanted to do it for years. When we make improvements, people from the western United States take notice.”
The new entrance will provide a wider access point for trucks carrying trailers and larger vehicles.
Its completion not only precedes the Fair and Rodeo, but also gives the fairgrounds a nice new addition to show off before a first-time event in September that Samson hopes to build into an annual affair. For the first time since Samson became commissioner, the fairgrounds will host a gun show.
“I don’t ever remember there being a gun show in Rifle before,” Samson said. “I just really pushed for that. I think we will pull in people from northwest Colorado and neighboring states. It’s kind of a natural fit. If it’s a big success, which I think it will be, we will look to have it every year.”
All of these upcoming events and renovation projects lead up to what Samson hopes will be a strong bid from Rifle to host the High School State Rodeo Finals next year.
“I don’t need to tell you how much money that could bring in to Rifle,” Samson added.
Debra Adams with the Garfield County Fairgrounds explained that Rifle will hardly be the only town looking to host the championship, and if Rifle hopes to win, the county and fairgrounds will need residents and businesses to help out.
“We hope businesses here will participate with simple things, like giveaways, something that will be unique to Rifle,” Adams said.
She explained that hosting cities will often put together packages for the competitors and their families to make the trip more affordable.
“When you put your hat in the ring, you have to compete against other towns and communities who want this just as bad as we do,” Samson explained. “It’s in Rifle, so we need Rifle to be aware and throw their support for it. It would be nice when Debra goes before the board if we can show that the county made all these improvements and the city is 100 percent behind it.”
This year’s state finals were hosted in Lamar from May 25-29.
Next year’s event could see hundreds of competitors and their families head to Rifle during Memorial Day weekend, which would bring all kinds of business into town.
Rifle’s bid to host next year’s rodeo must be delivered by Aug. 1, according to Adams.
Rifle Planning Director Nathan Lindquist said that it is on the Visitor Improvement Fund agenda next week to discuss the rodeo bid.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.