Big-time names showed up to the Elizabeth Stampede’s small town rodeo to compete for nearly $60,000 in total prize money over four performances — an Xtreme Bulls show last Friday night and three PRCA rounds last Saturday and Sunday. Boasting top-notch professionals like Kody Lostroh, Dean Gorsuch, Josh Peek, Wade Sumpter, Jessy Davis, Casey Colletti, Ryan Gray, Steven Dent, Brittany Pozzi and many others, the Elizabeth Stampede showed why it was named the PRCA’s Best Small Rodeo of the Year for the last two years. Not only do thousands of ticket-buying fans love the rodeo, but the contestants love it, as well.
“It’s just awesome,” praised Colorado cowboy and multiple NFR qualifier Josh Peek, who won the Tie Down title by a full second in front of an enthusiastic Sunday afternoon crowd. “It’s like a hometown rodeo for me. I love it. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. It is just a very enjoyable rodeo for me.”
While successful veterans like Peek, Pozzi and Lostroh won titles and winner’s checks in 2013, the rodeo also showed another reason why it is considered one of the best competitions around. Being a small rodeo means up-and-coming talent shows up to test their mettle in the arena, and the crowd supported them in a big way. More than 2,000 spectators rocked the stands last Saturday afternoon when a local 18-year-old barrel racer grabbed the lead during the round. Randi Lynn Timmons, in the first rodeo after filling her professional card, raced her 7-year-old mare Trudee to a time of 16.59-seconds and couldn’t believe she was in first place once the opening round’s dust settled.
“It’s amazing,” stated Timmons about notching the round’s best time. “This is my hometown rodeo. I won the Mutton Bustin’ here, I won my first buckle, this is where I ran my first horse and now I am leading the first performance,” she said with a grin.
Asked about the animated crowd, Timmons’ high-wattage smile grew brighter.
“You don’t find a crowd like this anywhere else for such a small town rodeo,” she described. “You have people coming from everywhere and they are so great and so cooperative. The energy is just incredible and that is what the contestants love. It was cool to hear the announcer call my name in this rodeo,” she revealed. “I’ve been waiting my whole life to run here.”
Elizabeth Stampede officials were just as excited about the high-quality contestants at their rodeo. Whether it was former world champs, multiple NFR qualifiers or brand new professionals, the excellent competition in front of packed grandstands made all their efforts worthwhile.
“I think (the talent level of competitors) is a testament to the quality we have here,” said Jace Glick, a member of the rodeo’s board of directors. “We know we are going to have world class bucking stock (from Burns Rodeo Company) and world-class athletes and it comes together and it’s almost like an NFR rodeo right inside this tiny little town here.”
“This rodeo is small town, big time rodeo,” agreed J.W. Winklepleck, a former bareback rider who is now a hilarious rodeo clown. Winklepleck has been entertaining the Stampede’s fans for the last three years and adds real quality to the entire weekend. “This is a small-town atmosphere, but it is big time rodeo. It is awesome.”
Almost 400 competitors this year thought Elizabeth, CO, was awesome for more than just the boisterous crowds, added money and Winklepleck’s brand of physical humor. The Elizabeth Stampede has won back-to-back PRCA Best Small Rodeo of the Year awards because they put a huge emphasis on caring for their contestants. When competitors show up, the Stampede makes sure they and their families are served and fed with large smiles and small town hospitality. In tents behind the scenes, a dizzying array of homemade grub including sliced beef, sloppy Joes, hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos and all the fixins are plated free of charge to those competing in and involved with the rodeo. While the food tastes great, the dedication behind it makes it even better.
“It comes from our heart,” said Anita Schultz, head of the highly praised hospitality tent for the last 6 years. “I think the thing that separates our hospitality tent from other small town rodeos is we home cook. We cook everything here. I have a wonderful crew,” she continued, pointing out her “right-hand man” Sarah West and mentioning they have 40-45 volunteers helping out. Schultz estimated her volunteers serve 2,200-2,500 people over the weekend, a massive undertaking equivalent to feeding more than the town’s entire population. “I want the cowboys to feel at home. They are so far away from home and for such long periods of time; I feel like that’s the least we can do. Without the cowboys, we have nothing.”
As a result of the efforts of more than 200 volunteers every year, the Elizabeth Stampede has put together a rodeo rightly regarded as one of the best in the country. But that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied.
“Our goal every year is to take it one notch higher than we took it the year before,” said Greg Dieker, chair of the Elizabeth Stampede’s Rodeo Committee for the last 7 years and a driving force behind its explosive growth during that time. “I’m a firm believer that I am not in the rodeo business; I am in what I call the show-deo business. My job is to put on a show,” he said with conviction. “In order to put on a show, I have to take care of my contractors, I have to take care of my contestants, I have to take care of my fans and I have to take care of my committee. I’ve got to equally balance everything. I think as long as we continue to balance that and recognize our volunteers for their commitment, because we are an all-volunteer rodeo — no paid employees — that we’ll continue to produce the finest rodeo in the country.” ❖