Strawberry Days fans have enjoyed years of sporting variety
To those who think rodeo has been the only sport centered around Strawberry Days – think again. A host of different sporting events and contests have made appearances throughout the 109-year history of the summer festival.Based on the survival rate of some events held during Strawberry Days weekend, few have withstood the test of time.Long before a guy named Lance Armstrong donned a yellow jersey in France, bicycling was at Strawberry Days.Competitive bicycle road races first took place in 1898 – the first year of the festival – and held interest up to the outbreak of World War I. At its height, crowds of more than 1,000 witnessed and were able to follow the race from Basalt to Glenwood from special seven-coach trains.Spectators would arrive at the starting line, re-board the train, then follow the race as it developed to the finish.
Glenwood resident Will Broughton won the first three events. After a couple of down years, he rediscovered his winning form in 1903 and won $200 for his efforts.In the early 1930s, boxing and wrestling cards were part of the action at the Rodeo Grounds, then located by Glenwood Springs Elementary School. Equipped with a covered grandstand and public address system, both curious and hard-core aficionados of the squared circle witnessed boxing matches featuring “Dynamite” Duhner of Saguache and Sam Greer from Pueblo and “Cowboy” Fosscero of Greenhorn against Rocky Ford’s “Spud” Stone.Pre-WWE wrestling style cards included a two-out-of-three semifinal match featuring the Black Panther, “The colored sensation of Colorado and Wyoming,” battling Columbus, Ohio’s “Red” Fitzsimmons.Admissions reflected the time. Ringside seats cost $2. General Admission set you back $1.The Rodeo Grounds moved to its current location, south of town by the airport in 1966.
In the ’50s, firemen’s races and water fights were temporary attractions. Both were jettisoned from the festival schedule after a few years. One event, originated in that decade, is still running under another name.In 1951, Garfield County High School physical education instructor, Wilber Bolitho began an annual series of youth swimming races at the Hot Springs Pool. The activity has gone through some changes and has bounced from Glenwood to Carbondale, then back to Glenwood two years ago.Bolitho’s competition lives on as the Sopris Barracuda Invitational, which takes place this weekend at the indoor Glenwood Community Center Pool.Power boat speed races, held by the Shoshone Power Dam down the Colorado River toward Glenwood Canyon, drew sizable crowds for most of the decade. Estimated attendance ranged from 2,000-3,500 annually for the event’s nine-year run, which concluded in 1960.Big-time men’s fast-pitch softball drew scores of fans and players to Vogelaar and Sayre (then named Strawberry Park) parks for more than four decades.
“It was huge and very competitive,” recalled Glenwood Springs native Dale Strode, who played in a number of those tournaments with various Glenwood teams. Originally shaped as a four-team, one-day event pitting Glenwood squads against teams from Grand Junction. The competition grew to a weekend-long affair that attracted teams from Denver and across the state.The success of Strawberry Days ended the tournament’s run in the late 1980s.”It became a facility issue,” Strode said. “The festival got so big, teams who came in for the tournament couldn’t find rooms in Glenwood, so they had to stay in Rifle, then drive in for their games.”In the mid-1990s, Dr. Greg Feinsinger, a founder of the Springers youth track club, held the Strawberry Days Relays at Glenwood High’s Stubler Memorial for a few years. Stubler was also the venue where the annual Strawberry Bowl semipro football game took place from 1992-1997.Over at Sayre Park, the diamond where softball games were once held, volleyball nets now ruled. Started by Glenwood resident Mike Gamba in 1991, the outdoor tournament continued through the decade, growing from 12 to more than 40 teams annually.As the rodeo and festival remain, other sports, it appears, will always be part of Strawberry Days. What comes in next is all a matter of what’s current or hot. The only sure thing, is that sport or sports will make a stop in Glenwood.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.