For the second year in a row, the Colorado vs. The World rodeo dominated the first Saturday’s schedule at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS). Three ticketed performances, featuring some of the biggest names in the sport and a total purse of $100,000, is a sure-fire way to start things off with a bang.
NWSS organizers continued to tweak the format of their fledgling idea, but it is safe to say the team rodeo concept was both contestant and fan friendly. As an invitational, all 100 contestants competing throughout the five events (bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and bull riding) had their entry fees paid by the NWSS and were treated like honored guests. Add to that fact they were all introduced to excited crowds using spotlights, flames and loud music and you had a recipe for happy contestants.
“Honestly, it is really pretty cool for me, especially being a Colorado cowboy,” said bareback rider Casey Colletti about the introductions. Colletti has participated in both years of the event, much to the delight of the local crowds. “When they said I’m from Colorado, the fans absolutely lost their minds,” he recalled with a laugh. “It fires me up and gets me excited.”
“We actually got to stand in the arena and see the crowd as they introduced us. That was a lot of fun,” agreed world champion barrel racer Mary Walker of Ennis, Texas, about the big introductions as well as interviews on the arena floor. “So many people do not get to realize who you are as a human being; what you’ve gone through to get to this point ... or even your horse that you participate on,” Walker continued. “I kind of want people to know that I am a human being and I do clean my house and I do clean my toilets,” she added with a laugh. “To be able to communicate with the crowd, that’s a big thing.”
Not only were introductions different from a typical rodeo, but the team format was a concept NWSS organizers are hoping will create a foothold at the historic venue.
“In the past 30 years, there have been other attempts made at the team concept that have come and gone,” revealed Marvin Witt, NWSS VP of Operations, during 2012s inaugural event. “We hope we can get something established that can stick around for awhile.”
Boasting 20 contestants total in each of the five events, the first two fast-paced performances of the day had 10 contestants from a “CenturyLink Colorado” team (those that won 2012 Colorado rodeos like the NWSS, Greeley, Pikes Peak or Bust, etc.) going up against each other, followed by an afternoon rodeo pitting 10 familiar names in the sport making up a “Cinch Jeans World Team” against each other to determine who would make Saturday night’s finale. The performance sheets read like NFR handbills, including names such as Will Lowe, Luke Branquinho, Dean Gorsuch, Cort Scheer, Brittany Pozzi, Mary Walker, and Kanin Asay. The top four finishers from each team in each event picked up checks and moved on to the 8:00 p.m. Saturday night rodeo, where both team’s top finishers from that round would then proceed to a third head-to-head, winner-take-all matchup for $10,000.
The format not only created suspense, but an interesting sidebar of successful contestants competing three times in one day, which is physically demanding.
“It’s okay, as far as the roughstock side of it. It’s just abuse on our body,” stated Colletti with a laugh. “It’s kind of tough on your body, especially if you draw an ‘eliminator’ and move on — you are real sore on your next one — but it’s not a big deal.”
Unlike roughstock cowboys, however, timed-event competitors had to also consider their horses.
“I was a little hesitant at first (to come and compete), because if you do the best you can, you possibly have to make three runs in one day,” explained Walker about the prospect of racing her horse Latte’ through a trio of patterns. “It’s a little hard on a barrel horse to make three runs, but I thought, let’s go up there and look and see what it is and see if we enjoyed it. The three runs in one day didn’t bother Latte at all. He went in there ... and did really well.”
So well, in fact, Walker and Latte’ earned the barrel racing title and more than $12,000 for their efforts.
One of the more interesting portions of the contest was how top roughstock finishers from each team chose their final ride from three possible animals, or how the top two timed event contestants chose their order of competition. Hearing their thoughts about a particular animal or whether they wanted to go first or last gave the rodeo an added dimension.
“It’s a great idea,” said Colletti about cowboys choosing their final rides from three available animals. “It’s cool that they take the guys out there and introduce them, pick the horse, turn the horse out into the arena and then the other guy gets to choose.”
“I think they did a good job of trying to build up the competition and the head-to-head contest of the Colorado vs. The World deal,” concurred Greeley, Colo., bull rider Jarrod Ford, who was one of the top four on the Colorado team. “I think it was set up good for the crowd watching. It was kind of neat to be a part of,” he added about the format. “I had a little success at it, so I wouldn’t mind going back.”
He wasn’t the only one.
“I think if you added up all my times it was like 45 seconds and I made $12,400,” shared an enthusiastic Walker. “So I thought, I kind of like this. I think I would be willing to come back!”
As NWSS officials work to make the invitational team concept bigger and better for fans and contestants, the high-flying Colorado vs. The World rodeos should be able to make competitors and ticket buyers want to come back each and every year. ❖