The Greeley Stampede began its tradition of rodeo and festival 90 years ago, turning it over the years into “the premier event in Northern Colorado.” Boasting a title in the recent past of the “World’s Largest Fourth of July Rodeo,” Greeley draws top contestants in the sport to vie for a piece of the almost $300,000 total purse along with the status of winning one of the country’s high profile rodeos. It also doesn’t hurt that it is right in the middle of what is known as “Cowboy Christmas,” a run of over 30 rodeos from the end of June through the first week of July.
“It’s great for the contestants,” said Jim Bainbridge, the PRCA’s Senior Public Relations Coordinator, when asked about Cowboy Christmas. Bainbridge pointed out how bareback cowboy Steven Dent earned $22,194 and roper Rhen Richard amassed $20,769 during 2012s “Christmas season,” with Greeley’s first-place checks helping them reach those totals. “They have 32 rodeos over the course of a week with about 3.3 million dollars in prize money,” he added. “You can make or break your season with one great week.”
“Oh, anytime you can win a rodeo like (Greeley), it helps out,” agreed Dent about the busy time of year. Dent won the average after posting an 87-point score aboard Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Black Kat in the championship round. “It really helps set you up for the rest of the year. Any of those (big Fourth of July) rodeos, you dang sure want to show up.”
Evidenced by Dent and Richard’s hauls, the Greeley Stampede was a big player during the first week in July, with the rodeo action as hot as a July thermometer. It was a recipe for success that kept rodeo fans happy and participants in hog heaven.
“It’s a dream come true,” enthused Texas Tie Down Roper, Bradley Bynum, after taking home the winner’s check from Greeley and pocketing over $15,000 during the busy week. “It’s a great rodeo and everybody wants to win that one. That’s the biggest win I’ve ever had.”
Bynum arrived just before slack and posted a good first round time. After a second round he described as “okay,” he was surprised by his high placement on the championship board. His proximity to the top kept him in good stead as he nailed down the second best time in the final round (8.5 seconds) and beat out Tuff Cooper and a solid field for his best-ever single rodeo paycheck.
“We had to charter some flights back across from Cody, Wyo., back to the short round at Greeley,” explained Bynum of his effort to compete in the final round. “I had to send horses here and there, but it was all worth it. It was a blast.”
It was a blast for Teddy Johnson, as well. A steer wrestler from Oklahoma, the 36-year-old Johnson returned to rodeo after taking time off with family and Greeley was just the place to get back in gear.
“I felt glad to be back to winning again and making money again,” said Johnson after showing his 2003 world-title-winning form with a blistering 3.9-second run in the short go. “When you put all that hard work in, (you have a good horse) and then you start having success, there’s nothing like it in the world.”
Asked about winning the important rodeo, Johnson praised the 90-year Greeley tradition.
“Oh man, I’ve always loved Greeley,” he offered. “I’ve just always loved the arena, the committee and everything about Greeley. I’ve been coming there since my rookie year and I’ve just always enjoyed that rodeo.”
The timed events weren’t the only ones hosting cowboys who loved competing in northern Colorado.
“Over the Fourth of July, it is one of the biggest rodeos there is,” said veteran Saddle Bronc competitor, Jesse Bail. “I’ve been there a pile of times. I’ve won a little money, but I’ve never had a lot of luck there.”
Bail’s luck changed in 2012, as the South Dakota cowboy rode a young bucker named Home Coming to an 86-point score in the championship round and his first ever Greeley title.
“I’ve always wanted to win Greeley,” revealed Bail a few days after his win. “I came back for the short round and had a young horse there. Shoot, he was really good. He turned out of there and bucked and I was tickled pink. He was good and everything worked out real good.”
Stampede organizers also thought it worked out real good in 2012. After a challenging several years dealing with debt issues, they have watched their event move in a positive direction starting with 2011 and continuing this year.
“It went very well,” said Bill Ogg, Executive Director of the Greeley Stampede. “The rodeo attendance was excellent this year. We were 4,360 tickets ahead of last year. So overall, just under 30,000 people attended the six performances
of rodeo. We just had a very enjoyable, memorable event.”
Asked if organizers were feeling upbeat about the Greeley Stampede’s future, Ogg was affirmative in his response.
“Absolutely,” he said with conviction. “Not many of us were here for the first (Greeley Stampede) and not many will probably be there for the next 90th,” Ogg finished with a laugh. “We had a good year last year and will follow up with a good year, this year. We’re looking forward to the 100th (anniversary).”
If only the first organizers could have foreseen how important Greeley’s event would be to cowboys in the future, they just might have started it even earlier. ❖
“Oh man, I’ve always loved Greeley! I’ve just always loved the arena, the committee and everything about Greeley. I’ve been coming there since my rookie year and I’ve just always enjoyed that rodeo.”
~ Teddy Johnson