Decade of Red, White & Blue at Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo
June 12, 2017
The Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo in Elizabeth, Colo., has earned a large amount of praise, winning more than a dozen Mountain States Circuit honors, along with picking up three Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Small Rodeo of the Year titles.
All the accolades are not a one-way street, however, as the last 10 years has seen the well-known event work to praise and honor others during its Sunday afternoon performance, which they call the Red, White & Blue Rodeo. Along with good, old-fashioned patriotism, organizers of that performance focus on recognizing the service of veterans and active duty military.
"Veterans or members of the military, all of us sacrifice a lot for our country," said the Stampede's Red, White & Blue Rodeo coordinator, Frank Harman, a veteran with over 30 years combined in the U.S. Army Green Beret and U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant, (Ret.). "We give up time with our kids, seeing our kids grow up. A lot of us deploy throughout the year or we deploy for a lot of months during the year. I think it benefits the recognition of the men and women who served to take a minute and say 'hey, thank you.'"
In 2017's tenth running of the Red, White & Blue Rodeo, four veterans were honored on the sand of the arena just before the start of action. Encompassing generations of courage, duty and sacrifice — including participants in World War II, Vietnam, and a Brigadier General (Ret.) that represented the decades leading to the present — the capacity crowd showered them with respect and gratitude. The warm response was appreciated by those veterans.
"I can't put it into words," said Brigadier General U.S. Air Force (Ret.) Patricia Quisenberry, who served more than three decades, beginning as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1979. "Hometown America, this is where it is at. It is not downtown Denver. It is not Washington, D.C. It is Elizabeth, Colo., where you get the most satisfaction for serving your country and saluting and recognizing that flag. Because this is what we fight for," she said as she motioned toward the filled grandstands. "It is the freedom to have these types of festivities on a Sunday afternoon. This isn't just a day away from the office, this is a family tradition."
After Gen. Quisenberry was honored, the crowd was delighted to see 94-year-old World War II veteran Phil Zicarrelli enter the arena. Needing just a cane and accompanied by his wife of 71 years, Ester, the pair was cheered in a fashion befitting members of "the greatest generation."
"It's wonderful that they do that, but like I have always said, the heroes were left behind," offered a humble Zicarrelli about the crowd's reception. "I am just one of the lucky guys."
"We were combat engineers," he said about his service in the 19th Combat Engineer Battalion under General Patton in North Africa and Sicily, as well as the battalion's duty in Italy. "We were right up there. Patton was a great general (and) G.I.'s, like myself … were very proud of him."
Zicarrelli was pleased to be a part of the Red, White & Blue Rodeo, and to see the colors on prominent display.
"It's wonderful," he said of the crowd's patriotism. "That's why we were considered the greatest generation. We were patriotic and loyal. All of us, at that time."
The warm reception from the packed grandstands was especially poignant for the Vietnam veterans invited to the ceremony. Veterans from that era often spend decades avoiding attention due to misguided attitudes and hostility toward their service. While Larry Royston, Sergeant U.S. Army (Vet.), was unavailable for comment, Leo Thompson, Master Sergeant U.S. Air Force (Ret.), described his reaction to the welcoming atmosphere.
"It is amazing, that's all I can say," said Thompson, who served for 21 years, including Vietnam. "It just blows me away. Nobody ever recognized anything about what I did, until now."
Both Thompson and his wife, Irene, became emotional trying to describe the thought of his Vietnam service being honored in front of a few thousand people.
"To me it is wonderful," Irene said, the tears in her eyes matching those of her husband. "It is a dramatic change. He is a true American. He gets very emotional about it, but he is really honored. Truly honored."
"It brings a tear to my eye," revealed a passionate Harman about the gratefulness and respect shown toward the military during Sunday's Red, White & Blue Rodeo. "It means a lot … to be able to recognize fellow members of the military. They deserve recognition. It is a good thing to say thank you to the men and women who have served our country for so long. (They) protected our freedoms and the things we take for granted each and every day and we really need to give them thanks because of that. I know everybody else here feels good (about it, as well)."
"This (Red, White & Blue Rodeo) is where we get to show our heart," said Jace Glick, president of the Elizabeth Stampede. "This is where we get to show our real feelings. When we get the privilege to honor our heroes in this kind of venue, I don't know if it gets any better than that. They are our real heroes." ❖
— 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