Cowboy legend to serve as event marshal
Cripple Creek has gained a niche as a prime haven for donkey races, military tributes, ice sculptures and motorcycle rallies. But at least for three days next summer, it may capture major attention as a cowboy mecca.
Buoyed by the success and participation of its first ever officially sanctioned Colorado professional rodeo, Cripple Creek is gearing up for what organizers hope will become a bigger and better event, with the help of more sponsorship opportunities and an aggressive marketing plan. Plus, the 2014 event, tentatively scheduled for mid-June, will feature rodeo legend Larry Mahan, an eight time world champion cowboy, as the grand marshal and event celebrity to appear at many competitions. Mahan was the winner of six all around world championships and two world champion victories as bull rider, and is now a big western wear entrepreneur.
In a recent public workshop, the Cripple Creek City Council appeared ready to open the gates again for the wild rodeo bulls, horses and calves and professional cowboys at the fairgrounds arena outside town early next summer, despite the often difficult weather conditions in mid-June. According to City Administrator Ray White, the city is ready to serve as a key sponsor of the three-day event, with an initial commitment of $11,000, plus some marketing dollars.
Last year, an event touted as a Cowboy Gathering and Western Street Dance, was rated as the top new rodeo of the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association (CPRA) for 2013. “We are on the right track,” said John Denson, a CPRA rodeo participant.-
This year, with the help of a promotional committee, headed by Liz and John Denson, the organizers have higher hopes and want to get more community and business involvement and partner with a variety of equestrian and 4-H groups. And this time, the event will be dubbed as the Cripple Creek Rodeo. Liz Denson, who unveiled a marketing plan for the competition and festivities before the council at a recent meeting, cited the fact that the rodeo is really the main focus of the event regarding the name change. However, it will still have many of the same features, such as a western street dance and parade.
According to Liz Denson, the event will try to incorporate more sponsorship opportunities, such as chute gate logos and announcements that showcase individual businesses each time a particular gate is used for events. It also will allow business to advertise on the back of tickets and at box gates and inside the event program.
In addition, the rodeo is seeking to attract more kids and families by giving away free and discounted tickets . We want to get a lot of people there,” said Denson. Both she and her husband have been involved in rodeo events extensively in New Mexico. Liz Denson is also launching a new day care center in town at a building once used by a former restaurant, across from the courthouse. Some of Denson’s other ideas involve having casinos and local businesses host western heritage events around the days of the rodeo. She also wants the rodeo to have a high profile with the city of Cripple creek, Creek casinos, Southern Teller County Economic Development Council, Woodland Park Saddle Club, 4-H clubs, and with the local and regional media.
According to White, one of the biggest improvements in the event, under the guise of the CPRA umbrella, is a lot more rodeo participants and additional exposure for the town. White estimates that last year the professional rodeo attracted more than 250 competitors, most of whom brought their families. That is a big improvement in the past rodeo bids that only featured 100 competitors. “These are professional rodeo cowboys who are participating,” explained White They are trying to earn points so they can qualify for the CPRA finals. It bring a lot more people to town.”
The CPRA circuit consists of about 30 events in many small communities like Cripple Creek. The CPRA competitions feature such events 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, a representative the CPRA board, in describing the lifestyle of its 500-plus CPRA members, during a previous meeting with the Cripple Creek City Council. 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 small towns throughout the state, including Salida, Buena Vista, Montrose, Trinidad and Calhan.
Last year, a partnership was formed between the CPRA, the Teller Association of Fairs and Shows (known formerly as the Teller fair board) and the city of Cripple Creek. This rodeo also has gained more prominence due to the fact that Teller County government no longer funds the county fair. On the downside, the Creek rodeo hasn’t fared well with weather. Two big rodeo galas in 2012 and 2013 encountered problems due to the Waldo Canyon fires and then the floods.
Regardless, both Liz and John Denson didn’t have to do much arm-twisting with the council. Several elected leaders touted the 2013 professional rodeo as a great asset to the town. Councilman Milford Ashworth has been a big proponent of bringing more rodeo action to Cripple Creek. The only concern raised by the council deal with what happens if the event organizers fall short of their lofty sponsorship goals.
Reed Grainger, a veteran member of the fair board, explained that the event organizers have sufficient funds to do the main events. Denson also commented that the Triple Crown Casinos has already agreed to sponsor the street dance.
The Cripple Creek Rodeo is expected to snag a role as a top event for 2014.