Cattlemen’s Days celebrates the Gunnison Valley’s Western Heritage

Well it’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud
It’s the roar of a Sunday crowd, it’s the white in his knuckles
The gold in the buckle he’ll win the next go ‘round
It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats
It’s spurs and latigo, it’s the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain and they call the thing rodeo
~From the Garth Brooks song, “Rodeo”, written by Larry Bastain

No, the Village People are not in town. If you see a man wearing chaps and spurs on Main Street this week, he’s the real deal.
One hundred fourteen years running, Cattlemen’s Days is the oldest rodeo in the state. It began as a modest bit of summer relief for local ranchers, a break between the hard work of birthin’ babies, branding, steering (ouch!), doctoring, irrigating, fence repair, and putting up hay for the winter. It’s grown into a Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) marquee event. 

Horse racing has been a final Sunday tradition at the rodeo for decades, but this year, fans will see something different. “We’re tabling it for one year,” says Cattlemen’s Vice President Margo Patton-Blair. “Instead, we’re trying a Team Sort for that day.”
Team Sort is one of four events known collectively as Ranch Rodeo. Others are Calf Branding (with paint dobbers), Pen and Doctor and Trailer Loading. (Those took place earlier this week.) Team Sort requires that cowboys separate designated critters from the herd.
“You have to sort the cattle and pull them out of the group,” says Patton-Blair. “Let’s say you have 15 animals [in the herd] and your team is assigned numbers 1 through 5. You have to pull those numbers out of the herd in that order,” she says. As if that’s not challenging enough, the cowboys must also keep those beasts separate from the rest.  “They (the steers) want go back and be with the herd,” Patton-Blair says. The animals struggle to do that, often defying a team’s best efforts.
Pen and Doctor is an event that replicates separating out a single calf from the herd for medical care, something real cowboys do on the ranch everyday. So is Trailer Loading. Teams of five cowboys must rope one member of the herd and get him into a trailer. These authentic events are reminiscent of old-time competitions in the early days of rodeo.
While the star of the show at every Cattlemen’s Days is, well, cattle, there are critters of every domestic sort represented in the week-long 4H shows. Goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, chickens — local kids raise ‘em, show ‘em and sell ‘em, for meat, for milk, eggs and fiber, and you can see ‘em, all there at the rodeo grounds.

And there’s the rodeo!
Fundraisers throughout the week support a variety charities, with the first night of professional rodeo (PRCA-sanctioned) — Thursday — dedicated to Breast Cancer research and awareness, dubbed Tough Enough to Wear Pink.
“The Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo is the first rodeo to raise over a million dollars for Tough Enough to Wear Pink, and we are going to continue to raise funds and support breast cancer awareness. So come on out, and make sure to wear pink,” says Gene Hollenbeck, this year’s Cattlemen’s Days president.
Friday is Patriot Night, in support of Military Families. “It’s a night we dedicate in support of soldiers, the men and women who serve our country,” says Patton-Blair. “We’ve also tried to make a connection this year with Wounded Warriors.”
Saturday night is Family Night, which pays homage to the tradition that is Cattlemen’s and the families that come out to enjoy and support the event every year.
If you can’t get enough of horses, pomp and western flare, don’t miss the Cattlemen’s Days Parade on Saturday, July 12. Fill up on pancakes early at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, then head out to get a good-view spot along Main Street in Gunnison. The Parade starts at 10 a.m.
If watching cowboys take their chances in the ring with raging bulls and bucking broncs isn’t thrill enough for you, check out the carnival adjacent to the rodeo grounds. It has rides that spin, drop, twirl and fly, and you can do it all while charged up on massive thunder clouds of cotton candy.
There’s a ticket booth at The Gunnison Bank on Tomichi Ave., across the street from Family Dollar. Ticket Booth Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through the end of the event. General Admission is $15.00, and Grandstand tickets cost $20.00. For more ore information, call 970-596-1413.

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