Heading into the 120th year
By Mark Reaman
Need your fix of bull riding or barrel racing? A Cattlemen’s Days rodeo is scheduled to take place in Gunnison in early September.
Normally held in July, the 120th rendition of the rodeo is slated to run September 3 to September 5. Whether a crowd of spectators will be allowed to see it in person will be decided by the middle of August.
Kevin Coblentz, president of the volunteer committee that organizes the celebration, said the rodeo will be one of the few taking place in the country this summer and will feature the seven traditional rodeo events, which are part of every ProRodeo like Cattlemen’s Days.
“This is a very big deal,” Coblentz said.
A press release from the Cattlemen’s Days team pointed out that over the last 120 years, the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration has featured its rodeo through the 1918 flu pandemic, the 1918 flood, World War I, the Depression and World War II.
“This community has a long-standing tradition of mental toughness and fortitude,” said Coblentz. “We have a great deal of pride when it comes to Cattlemen’s Days and our rodeo. We are proud of the history we have, and we’re excited to continue through our 120th straight year of having a rodeo.
“More than anything, each of us who volunteers for Cattlemen’s Days is proud of this community and the people in it. That is why we work so hard every year to produce this big event.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions in place from state and local public health officials, organizers are working with the rodeo’s video production crew to set up multiple video boards around the community to showcase the action to people who want to take in the rodeo. In addition, the Cattlemen’s Days committee is working to have the rodeo broadcast on The Cowboy Channel. More details on all video will be released at a later date.
“There is a good chance the restrictions will be eased some in mid-August, so we may be able to have some people in the stands for the rodeo,” Coblentz said, estimating the crowd count could be 25 percent of its normal capacity. “For now, though, we are planning for the worst-case scenario and hoping for the best situation possible.”
The 4-H displays have already taken place and there will be no carnival this year because of the coronavirus crisis. So the rodeo is the focus and it should be a big one.
“Because the rodeo is associated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, the contestants will be from across the country and, if they were already across the border before COVID, from North America. Because there have been so many fewer rodeos, it is likely Cattlemen’s Days will have a record number of contestants who put their hat in the ring to compete,” said Coblentz. “The dollars [which equal points in ProRodeo] will count toward qualifications to the 2020 National Finals Rodeo, which features only the top 15 money-winners in each event. This is a very big deal.”
With the mandated conditions of having a rodeo, the committee is getting creative with its fundraising efforts.
“We’re actually reaching out to the rodeo community and asking people to support rodeo and rodeo athletes,” Coblentz said. “We are setting up a GoFundMe page, and we are happy to take any donation anyone is willing to provide us in this trying year,” explained Coblentz.
“What we’re hoping for is to have 1,000 Cowboy Sponsors at $150 apiece for $150,000. That would provide the funding to keep our added money [locally raised dollars] in a range where it has been. Every dime of money raised through the cowboy sponsorships will go to the contestants,” said Coblentz.
To sponsor Cattlemen’s Days via the GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/f/make-cattlemen039s-days-2020-happen.
“Traditionally we have done things the old-fashioned way, and we will continue to do that as we reach out to our event sponsors, chute sponsors and others who want to be part of Cattlemen’s Days. With technology and the ability to reach so many people via the GoFundMe page, we find ourselves in a position to reach the rodeo community, the people that have supported the sport for so long,” said Coblentz.
All Cowboy Sponsors will have their names placed in a lottery. Names will then be drawn from that bundle, and if a sponsor’s name is collected, that person will receive two tickets to the rodeo.
“In the spirit of Gunnison, we know we can get through the pandemic of 2020 with perseverance and strength,” Coblentz said. “The mental toughness we have here has been exhibited for decades, and we’re using that to produce another great rodeo in this community.”
The rodeo is scheduled to be held from Thursday, September 3 through Saturday, September 5 at the Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison. “We want to celebrate the cowboys who are part of rodeo across the nation, and having our rodeo is the best way we can do that,” concluded Coblentz.