Arena records matched in 2017’s Greeley Stampede Short Go
July 6, 2017
2017 Greeley Stampede Average Winners:
Bareback – Shane O’Connell, Rapid City, S.D.
Steer Wrestling – Dru Melvin, Hebron, Neb.
Team Roping – Tie: Smith/Eaves and Minor/Minor
Saddle Bronc – Rusty Wright, Milford, Utah
Tie Down – Tie: Cade Swor and Shane Hanchey
Barrel Racing – Sydni Blanchard, Albuquerque, N.M.
Bull Riding – Brody Yeary, Brock, Texas
2017 marked the 96th year of Colorado's Greeley Stampede and its annual rodeo. After 95 years of luring roughstock contestants into the chutes, including pro rodeo legends like Bruce Ford, Chris LeDoux, Dan Mortensen and Billy Etbauer, a reasonable person might expect the historic venue's arena records to be untouchable.
This year proved otherwise.
Although the daytime temperature was more than 90 degrees F, the Greeley Stampede held its championship round in the evening of July 3. The rare switch to a night rodeo format may have cooled off the grandstands, but the action inside the arena remained red hot.
Warming up the crowd with the first ride of the night was Colorado's own Tyler Scales. The bareback cowboy from Severance had the fans cheering with an efficient effort on South Suds for 76 points. While he wanted a bigger score, the 31-year-old cowboy was pleased to qualify for the large rodeo's championship round.
"It's pretty cool to come here and be local and be in the finals," said Scales after his ride. "I've always wanted to do good here and it means a lot when neighbors and family are all here to support me. It's great."
After Scales' successful ride, the rest of the bareback lineup generated heat on the frontrunner until Shane O'Connell of Rapid City, S.D., scorched the field with a record-tying score of 89 points aboard a strong bucker named Hollywood Hills. The big bay leapt straight out of the chute to begin a series of airborne kicks before turning right and coming full circle at the whistle, high kicking the entire way. While O'Connell knew he had a good ride, a share of the arena record kept him smiling well after its conclusion.
"I couldn't be better," the South Dakota cowboy said behind the chutes. "It is freaking awesome."
Informed that he tied the arena record of a rodeo with nearly a century of history behind it, only increased his enthusiasm.
"I didn't know that, but you definitely got me smiling, now," O'Connell said. "That is unique. That is pretty cool."
When asked to describe the 89-point ride, O'Connell gave plenty of credit to Hollywood Hills.
"(That) big old bay stood in there like a dream and let me do my deal," O'Connell said about preparing to ride. "(Stock contractor) Bennie (Beutler) has got some tough horses out there, big strong horses, and that one just rode so dang good. It helped set my feet and all you had to do is keep your chin tucked and set your feet and (Hollywood Hills) kind of did the rest. That is half the score is getting a good horse, so a big shout out to the Beutlers for that."
Good horses supplied by Beutler and Son Rodeo Company kept the action sizzling, as yet another arena record was matched in the saddle bronc event. Utah cowboy Rusty Wright arrived in Greeley for just the second time in 2017, but the first time was last year when he won the saddle bronc buckle on his first try. Returning to defend his title; the young cowboy drew a bucker named Ole Flame, and the dunn fired up the arena with plenty of high-kicking action. Once the smoke settled, Wright not only earned 87 points and a back-to-back Greeley Stampede title, he also wrote his name in the record books of the venerable rodeo.
"I didn't know this rodeo was 96 years old," said Wright shortly after his record-tying ride. "It is awesome. I didn't know what the arena record was, so it makes it even sweeter when you don't know. This is my second year coming to this rodeo. I love it. I don't care if I win it, I just like getting on good bucking horses and that's what you get when you come to Greeley. Good bucking horses and lots of fun."
The contestants and fans weren't the only ones pleased with seeing arena records matched at the 2017 Greeley Stampede. Stock contractor Bennie Beutler also liked giving the ticket-buying fans a memorable time.
"You always want them to buck (and) you have the good cowboys here," Beutler said at the conclusion of the championship round. "It has to work both ways. The cowboys wouldn't be here if they didn't think they would get on something that bucked. You've got to be proud of it. It is like winning the Kentucky Derby or something. When the (son of a guns') buck, you've got to cheer them on. You know me, I like to buck off the cowboys, anyway," he added with a grin. "But it is that much better when they ride them like that. There ain't better guys than we had here today. You can't pick a bunch of better guys. That is what this sport is all about." ❖
— Rogers is a freelance writer and photographer located east of Parker, Colo. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can find him on Facebook at Official Lincoln Rogers Writing & Photography Page.