Big Plans for Rodeo and Music Events in the High Country

INDIO, CA - APRIL 30: Musician Aaron Watson performs onstage during 2016 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 30, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

After a slight breather in special events in the high country, Teller County will soon bustle with festival action, big-time—at least in the planning stages in both Woodland Park and Cripple Creek.

This Saturday the region’s rodeo action will kick off with the Ute Trail Stampede Stick Horse Rodeo on Feb. 4. The event will be held in the Pikes Peak Community Club in Divide, and serves as a fund-raiser for the 61st annual Ute Trail Stampede Rodeo in July.

Photo by CR Chambers

The Stick Horse Rodeo, aimed primarily for kids, will feature games, prizes and concessions, along with a cowboy and queens contest. The main sponsors of the events are The Cowhand, Divide Feed, City Market, Papa Murphy’s and Venture Foods. More importantly, the event will set the stage for an active rodeo season this summer in Woodland Park and a variety of events in the Woodland Station area.

With the success of the Ute Trail Stampede Rodeo last year, local business owners, equestrian buffs and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) are bullish about special events in Woodland Park, especially ones that emphasize the area’s western heritage. “We want to bring people into town with our events,” said Merry Jo Larsen, chairperson of the Downtown Development Authority board, and owner of The Cowhand.

The 61st Stampede is slated for July 7, 8 and 9, and it will feature such popular competitions as bull riding and team roping. It will be sponsored by the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association. To further kick off the rodeo, the Saddle Club will hold a Cowboys Golf Tournament at Shining Mountain on June 24. This was originally planned for last year.

“We wanted to do that before, but we just didn’t have enough time,” said Larsen.

This is just one rodeo gala planned this summer by local rodeo and equestrian buffs. Bronc Day in Green Mountain Falls, planned for July 29, will play off this theme. After the parade and typical Bronc Day events in Green Mountain Falls, the action will head up the hill for a big rodeo at the Saddle Club arena grounds in Woodland Park. In some ways, this will restore the event to its former heyday. This event is being called the Wild West Days.

Meanwhile, Woodland Station will host a variety of festivals, including Territory Relief Days, Pikes Peak Rendezvous, Mountain Man Logging Days, Cowboys and Culture and a Harvest Festival. Larsen said these events are designed to help restore the region’s western roots and to give the area a slightly different rustic variety from the usual lineup of events the town features every summer and fall.

In the near future the DDA events group may also explore the possibility of bringing back their motorcycle and veterans rally, one of the first big events that kicked off in Woodland Station about seven years ago.”That was a great event, when we first started it,” admitted Larsen.

But at least for 2017, this motorcycle event won’t become a reality.

Larsen also stressed that a current lawsuit against the DDA, filed by the owner of BierWerks, won’t affect any of their plans for events at Woodland Station.  

Cripple Creek Events Bonanza

Once again, Cripple Creek is planning another big season on the event front. Last year, the town added about four new events in an effort to bring more families and visitors to the area. For 2017, the event spurt will continue. The only real casualty in the festival lineup for this year is the Mine to Mine running race held in the fall. Due to a decline in participation, this event received the axe.

A new event gaining traction is the first-ever Cripple Creek Music Fest, scheduled for July 15.

This will include several nationally-known acts, such as Gretchen Wilson and Molly Hatchet and much more. The event promoter is NP Productions, based in Arizona. Besides sponsoring the Cripple Creek Music Fest, this company wants to restore the old Gold Rush Palladium outdoor amphitheater, according to Cripple Creek Marketing Director Steve Kitzman. This facility, which can seat about 1,000 people, is now owned by Bronco Billy’s.

In its heyday, this amphitheater sported some great nostalgic rock and roll and country shows, such as Jefferson Starship, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Little Feat and Stephen Stills, just to name a few. It was regarded as one of the best outdoor areas for viewing entertainment.     

The idea of the music festival got the thumbs-up by the city council during a recent meeting. Several residents and business owners also praised the scheduled lineup. Originally, the city mulled the idea of landing 38 Special, but a conflict occurred with this arrangement.

And for yet another year, the council firmed up plans again for the Salute to American Veterans Rally. In late 2016, a controversy ensued over the funding of this festival, with city official considering a 60 percent reduction in funding.

Under a new compromise, the city has agreed to fund the bulk of the event again, but the promoter, ProPromotions, will  pick up the tab for the traveling Vietnam Wall and other expenses normally handled by the city.

During their Jan. 18 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Zoellner expressed relief over the fact that the rally will remain in Cripple Creek. He cited this as a great event and a festival that “puts Cripple Creek on the map.” Contrary to some comments made at previous meetings in late 2016, the council member believes most of the citizens support the event. “We are very patriotic up here,” said Zoellner, who cited this event as a key reason for his family’s decision to move to the area.