Top-flight rodeo competitors were chosen by fans to compete in the first annual Rodeo All Stars event at the National Western Complex (April 5-6, 2013). The tournament-style format called for three performances (semi-finals on Friday and Saturday plus a championship on Saturday night) to decide who would take home large portions of the $140,000 total purse. But the competition didn’t stop there. Immediately after the rodeo’s final round Saturday night, the top two finishers in each event turned right around and competed head-to-head for the title and the potential to add $5,000 to their winnings. It was a format built to please both competitors and fans.
“That was great,” said three-time world champ Will Lowe, not only about the fans voting for competitors, but also about the rodeo’s overall design. “It’s good to get input from the fans on who they want to see ride. (And) the tournament style format is so much fun — a clean slate on each ride and just bring back the top guys after each go and then boil it down to the last two. That style is a lot of fun for fans, contractors and everybody.
“This is a great concept for rodeo,” agreed Marvin Witt, the National Western’s VP of Operations, about the rodeo’s format. “It gives the contestants the opportunity to compete for a very nice pot of money. The other thing is, there was only 16 competitors per event, so the odds of winning was better and more people would take a paycheck home.”
Witt then turned the subject to the fans.
“The fans get to see names they recognize,” he said about internet voting that chose the rodeo’s contestants. “In the Rodeo All Stars, you had an excellent opportunity to see some of the best (competitors) and the quality was phenomenal. So the fans got to see something that was good.”
Colorado fans also saw home-grown talent shine on the arena sand of the National Western’s Events Center, and none was brighter than Josh Peek. The Pueblo cowboy used the clean slates afforded him by the tournament format to wipe away fourth-place finishes from Friday and claim the top spots in both Steer Wrestling and Tie Down Roping during Saturday’s final round, which qualified him for the big money head-to-head rounds. After getting his mind and horse readied on short notice, Peek pulled off victories in both events on his way to pocketing $17,000 in prize money. It was his first time ever winning two events in a single rodeo, and the veteran cowboy was thrilled by the success against talented competition.
“I was just in awe,” revealed Peek after his second win. “It was a blessing. That was the first thing I could think. The only thing going through my mind was, oh my goodness, it happened.”
An oh-my-goodness moment for fans also came in the barrel racing event, where a pair of Colorado cowgirls ended up matched in the deciding head-to-head round for a title and that extra $5,000. Sammie Bessert and Paige Conrado battled all weekend long and, when the dust settled, Bessert edged Conrado by a combined 0.21 seconds over two rounds on Saturday night.
“It was really exciting,” said Bessert about running head-to-head against Conrado. “I think the format just adds to that. It was fun experiencing that with (Paige). We were neck and neck all weekend, our horses were just back and forth (and) it could have really gone either way.”
Asked about picking up a nice check in one weekend, Bessert was excited the top-notch rodeo is starting up in Colorado.
“I ended up with $9,500,” she described about nearly taking home the maximum $10,000 offered per event. “It was amazing. I spent two months rodeoing in Texas this winter, and we won a little bit everywhere we went, but I think I won more this weekend than I won all winter.”
While Colorado contestants conquered the timed events, Will Lowe dominated the bareback field. Lowe climbed aboard a young Cervi horse named Lucky Lady on Saturday night, not knowing what to expect, and the duo showered the arena with 91 points to win $3,000 and move into the head-to-head round for the possibility of more.
“The way that horse bucks, she could have been in that head-to-head deal,” praised Lowe, who displayed fist-pumping emotion after the ride. “There is a lot of electricity to a horse like that. Boy, it felt good. I didn’t want to quit riding,” he laughed.
It was a good thing, since he had to mount up against Bo Casper in short order. The duo showcased their talents aboard a pair of outstanding Cervi horses and Lowe posted 90 more points for the triumph. Afterward, the Texas cowboy described going mano-a-mano for a win.
“It makes it a lot of fun, being head to head with one guy,” sad Lowe. “You both know you’re going to do good; you both know each one of you has a pretty even horse. It’s all a clean slate and you both just go and let them roll. That’s the great thing, you can go out there and ... be as wild as you can and get as many points as you can.”
Cowboys can only get big points on good stock, and the Saturday night rodeo was stacked with excellent pairings. It was a successful recipe for riders and stock contractors alike.
“It’s great,” praised Ty Rinaldo about pitting a number of his Larkspur, Colo., based TZ Ranch bulls against quality cowboys. “It’s nice to be able to take these animals to events where they are truly tested. These guys tried hard and sure put the test to our stock. It was a great show. I thought the final night was an outstanding event.”
On top of the final night, organizers worked to make the entire weekend an immersive environment for fans of all ages. The National Western’s exhibition hall became a “rodeo fantasy” experience, where attendees could rope steer dummies, ride mechanical bulls, watch mutton busting, take in a western wear fashion show and even meet participating cowboys and cowgirls.
“I loved it,” said Peek about fan interaction during introductions and the Breakfast with Rodeo Champions. “They’re trying to put cowboys in front of the spectators and give spectators a chance to touch their hand, meet them, get to know them and hang out.”
“I’m planning on coming back,” summed up Lowe about the rodeo. “Hopefully we can keep growing it and get it bigger each year and get more people involved. It was a lot of fun.” ❖
“We still run things on good old fashioned customer service. A lot of the reason why we can compete with bigger feed stores is because we treat people how they want to be treated, and they come back because of that.”
~ Danielle Nater, daughter of Dennis Nater, owner and operator of Northern Colorado Feeder’s Supply