Rodeo Fever Thriving In Cripple Creek

Photo by CR Chambers


by Rick Langenberg:





Despite an all-out retreat from rodeo action by Teller government leaders, local residents next summer may enjoy professional bull riding contests, fierce bareback and saddle bronc riding showdowns and a spree of related horse competitions with some of the best cowboys in the Rocky Mountain region. Although no contracts are signed yet, the stage is set for the city of Cripple Creek to lasso the Pueblo-based Colorado Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) and gain a spot as a sanctioned site in 2013.

If successful, Cripple Creek would become one of 30 major CPRA rodeo events across the state. Plus, talks are proceeding to have another big rodeo event for the Teller County Fair. Both professional rodeos would be hosted at the county fairgrounds, outside Cripple Creek. But the Teller County government doesn’t plan any role in funding the competitions, according to event organizers. In fact, in a move that took some government observers by surprise, the Teller County commissioners cut off funding to the former fair board in late 2011. They allowed the group to use whatever monies remained in the board’s account for the 2012 event, but opted to allocate no more fair dollars, including funds for their rodeo, citing major budget concerns. Based on preliminary discussions, it doesn’t appear that Teller elected leaders will reverse this fiscal stance for 2013.

In previous years, the Teller government spent more than $30,000 for this event and emerged as the major sponsor of the county fair. The fair board has now reorganized as the Teller County Association of Fairs and Shows and succeeded in putting on what group leaders described as a very successful rodeo in early August. It also helped organize Cripple Creek’s Roughstock Rodeo and Demolition Derby earlier in the summer. With or without the county government’s financial help, this pro-rodeo spirit is starting to spread throughout southern Teller. During a recent Cripple Creek City Council workshop with representatives from CPRA and the Teller County Association of Fairs and Shows, the green light was signaled for doing a major rodeo in mid-June, just prior to Donkey Derby Days. The cost of hosting the rodeo hasn’t been finalized, but Cripple Creek officials are roughly estimating the city’s costs at between $10,000 and $15,000.

City Administrator Ray White expressed optimism about the town government working out a final agreement with the CPRA group. “The main difference next year is that we would have a professionally-sanctioned rodeo,” said White. Last year, the city co-sponsored a big rodeo around Donkey Derby Days, but the event was hampered due to the Waldo Canyon fire. According to White, the city allocated about $11,000 for its 2012 rodeo, and is anticipating a similar cost for the 2013 competition. Only now, the city will command considerable rodeo attention. The CPRA competitions typically attract an average of about 225 contestants, according to an association brochure, and feature such competitions as bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, mixed team roping, tie-down roping, open team roping, breakaway roping, ladies barrel racing and bull riding. They also allocate a considerable amount of prize money, with its prizes topping the $130,000 figure for the summer competitions. “We are weekend cowboys,” said Chuck Colletti, president of the CPRA board, in describing the lifestyle of its 500-plus CPRA members, during the recent workshop. He said most rodeo participants have other full-time jobs, but stressed that they take the rodeo competitions quite seriously. The group currently does many rodeos in many communities throughout the state, including Salida, Buena Vista, Montrose, Trinidad and Calhan. They also have a three-day grand finale in Grand Junction.

The city council was bullishly optimistic about the possibility of a CPRA sanctioned rodeo. “This would be a great time to put on a rodeo,” said Councilman Milford Ashworth, a big proponent of bringing more rodeo action to Cripple Creek. Ashworth also threw out the idea of adding an additional complimentary event that would bring “the cowboys into town,” such as a parade. He also wanted to set up a way to get more local participants in the competitions. However, some officials raised concerns about liability issues with contestants riding their horses into town. Also, White cautioned that festival activity may be restricted on Bennett Avenue due to the downtown improvements slated for completion next year. But for the most part, the rodeo organizers tried to iron out the details, such as handling the livestock, allocating prize money and promoting the competitions. No big red flags were raised by city officials. But White asked the CPRA to come up with a final figure shortly, so the city can add this event into its budget for next year. Randy Snare of the Teller Association of Fairs and Shows also expressed an interest in having a CPRA-related event for the Teller County Fair. Since the reorganization of the former Teller fair board, he said the new group has been quite successful in bringing quality rodeo action to Cripple Creek.