Third time’s indeed a charm for National Western’s Colorado vs. The World Rodeo
Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
Three is company.
All good things come in threes.
The third time’s a charm.
Those sayings applied to the third annual Colorado vs. The World Rodeo at the 2014 National Western Stock Show.
Jammed with style and flair, the one-day event was a fan-friendly team rodeo format that brought five rodeo disciplines to the Denver Coliseum, along with spotlights, flames, arena interviews and adrenaline rushes.
CenturyLink’s Colorado Team (or Team Colorado), consisted of cowboys and cowgirls who won rodeos throughout the state of Colorado in 2013. The Cinch Jeans’ World Team was made up of contestants who won other rodeos throughout the country and were invited to participate.
As a result, it was a lineup sure to please any rodeo fan and included top-ranked contestants, like Casey Martin, Dean Gorsuch, Jake and Cody Wright, Trevor Kastner, Mary Walker and Christy Loflin.
Judging by the high-caliber rodeo stock and rapid-fire action out of the chutes, it appeared NWSS officials learned from the previous two years and dialed up crowd-pleasing elements, such as big introductions (with flames, fireworks and spotlights) along with continuing the arena interviews between veteran rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus and the contestants. It was apparent organizers also made it a point to minimize any “dead air,” and the non-stop action kept the crowds cheering.
“I like it,” praised Polhamus, about the all the extra elements designed to involve ticket buyers.
Immediately after an impressive ride or performance, Polhamus would interview a cowboy or cowgirl inside the arena. Listening to participants share their thoughts while still out of breath from a ride created memorable moments and a chance for fans to get to know the contestants better.
“My deal has always been, get the fan involved,” shared Polhamus. “Make the fan care. And this is the kind of event where the fan is going to care.”
Those fans saw the World Team compete in a morning performance, where the top four from each event moved on to represent the team in Saturday night’s final round.
Team Colorado did the same in the afternoon, and the final eight competitors in each event squared off during the anticipated championship round.
Saturday night’s finale brought with it a large crowd that was ready for action. Kicking off the rodeo in style, the bareback riders showered the sand with 80-plus point scores, with the best from each team being Richie Champion’s 88 (Team Colorado) and Seth Hardwick’s 85 (World Team).
It was then the Colorado vs. The World Rodeo’s different format really shined.
The top scores from each team in the final round qualified the riders to advance to a lightning round head-to-head matchup for a winner-take-all $10,000. If that wasn’t enough entertainment, the pair of cowboys was allowed to choose the stock they wanted to ride and explain their choices to the crowd while talking to Polhamus inside the arena (while barrel racers and steer wrestlers didn’t choose their stock, they did get to choose the order of ride). Once the choices were made, the stock they chose was set loose in the arena so the crowd could get a better look. It’s something rodeo fans don’t see often and it gave the Saturday night crowd even more reason to get involved.
When 21-year-old Champion came out of nowhere to win the bareback event in 2013, he didn’t think he’d be able to top that experience in Denver. He was happy to be wrong when he scored a personal-best (and NWSS arena record) 92 points aboard Calgary Stampede’s Princess Warrior to win the title and pocket the hefty bonus check that came with it.
“I’m just tickled to death,” said Champion with a grin. “Last year (was so amazing) I didn’t think it could get any better. They ran three great horses under me today and everything worked out great.”
Asked for his thoughts on the different format and the loud and energetic crowd, the Texas cowboy’s smile got even bigger.
“I love it,” he described. “The openings we did where we all got to go out there and be in the middle of it all was awesome. Then you got to do the interviews with Boyd and the crowd was into it, they love it and they’re getting to learn about it. It’s awesome,” he repeated. “I live for this stuff.”
The crowd was treated to Colorado contestants getting in on the action, as well, which only increased the decibel levels inside the building. After finishing second in her first round, barrel racer Paige Conrado (riding Bubba) had the fastest time in the final round to earn a chance at $10,000 in the head-to-head matchup. Although Conrado ran the fastest in the lightning round, the third barrel went down and the resulting penalty gave the title to Brittany Diaz. Finishing second didn’t stop Conrado from enjoying the experience, however.
“It was really awesome,” she said about the rodeo. “I haven’t experienced something like Colorado vs. The World before, as far as the excitement level. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
Asked for her thoughts on the team rodeo concept and the different fan-friendly elements that were a part of it, she had praise for the event.
“I thought the format was really a fun and exciting way to mix up the traditional rodeo,” described Conrado. “I really enjoyed the introductions and the crowd being able to see who was going to be running. At the normal rodeos, they don’t make any time for stuff like that,” she added. “I thought it was really fun and exciting for fans. The (NWSS) stepped up their game. It was the best crowd I’ve seen there in a while outside of the short round for the (PRCA) rodeo.”
Those who helped develop the rodeo were also pleased.
“It’s an excellent product,” said Marvin Witt, the former NWSS V.P. of Operations, who is now retired and able to enjoy the new rodeo as a spectator. “It’s an hour and forty-five minutes of jam-packed entertainment. When we started this three years ago ... we knew it was going to be something entertaining and a new product. It was fun tonight.”
Judging by the crowds’ and contestants’ enthusiastic reactions to the third annual Colorado vs. The World Rodeo, it looks like the third time really is a charm. ❖