Steamboat Springs has a very strong western tradition, which even the youngest residents celebrate.
There was a time when my middle son, Alex, would don his small cowboy hat, grab an unsuspecting stuffed animal and practice calf roping in the living room. Swinging his imaginary rope, he would nab the stuffed toy, drop on one knee and throw his hands in the air.
His inspiration? The award-winning Steamboat Rodeo. We’d spent 10 summer days in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and the rodeo was his favorite, and clearly most unforgettable, experience of the vacation.
The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series is the most successful weekly rodeo in the country, and an important part of a summer visit to this northern Rockies cowboy town. Every Friday and Saturday evening from mid-June to mid-August, the locals mix with tourists for an evening of plumb western fun.
The town’s rodeo roots reach deep into the region’s vibrant ranching history and can be traced back more than 100 years. No one is quite sure when the first rodeo took place, but mentions of bronco riding can be found in old copies of the Steamboat Pilot newspaper from as early as 1898.
The same paper referred to what may have been the precursor to the modern rodeo: Game Day. The paper reports that the multi-day event drew about 3,000 people to Steamboat to watch ”rough riding, steer roping, pony racing, shooting contests, running races and dances.”
Today, the rodeo tradition is alive and well. The sport’s legends, hall-of-famers, world champions, circuit champions, season champions, as well as raw rookies support the rodeo. Sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the weekend event takes place in a modern rodeo arena named after local rodeo rider Brent Romick. With a nod to history, it stands on the same ground the original cowboys chose for their competitions a century ago.
Rodeo and western fans will also enjoy a Steamboat Fourth of July. Cowboy Roundup days include all the rodeo favorites: a parade down Lincoln Avenue, a community pancake breakfast, live music and fireworks.
When in Steamboat Springs
Your whole crew will enjoy witnessing this American tradition where the rough and tough iconic cowboy meets good, old-fashioned family fun.
Get there early.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. The seating is general admission, so if you want a front and center seat for the action, get there by 6:30 for a 7:30 start. There is parking at the rodeo grounds. However, you can avoid the crowds after the rodeo by parking in town and walking the few blocks to the arena.
Don’t miss the barbecue.
Each Friday and Saturday, a family-style barbecue starts at 6:00 p.m. and runs until approximately 9:30 p.m. If front row seats aren’t your priority, get riled up for the rodeo with special entertainment from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.
Get the kids involved.
Talk with first-timers about what to expect. For some small children, the events can be overwhelming. For arena-ready young wranglers, the just-for-fun calf and ram scramble may be just right for them. There are separate events for kids 5 and under as well as a scramble for kids 6-12. No need to register in advance.
Dress for the cool mountain air. The rodeo goes on, rain or shine. Kids 6 and under are free.
For more information: www.steamboatprorodeo.com.