2018 Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo draws big crowds
Top rodeo cowboys and cowgirls of the Mountain States Circuit (Wyoming and Colorado) arrived at The Ranch in Loveland, Colo., (October 25-27, 2018) to compete for bragging rights, buckles, year end titles, over $158,000 in prize money and the opportunity to qualify for the prestigious RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla.
The crowds were solid over the three days, but Saturday night saw the bleachers filled to capacity inside the Ranch-Way Feeds Indoor Arena.
“The crowds were great,” said Guy Warpness, president of the Mountain States Circuit. “They were pretty active and boisterous. Of course, the stock is the best of the best (and) we had a great set of cowboys and cowgirls here, this year.”
Even for a spectator with just a passing knowledge of the local rodeo scene, the performances were filled with a who’s who of competitors within the circuit. From young up and comers like first time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Trey Yates (team roping, heeler) to record setting, six-time circuit champion bull rider Clayton Savage, there were familiar names to follow. With opportunities to win good prize money, along with the chance to advance to Kissimmee, the action playing out inside the arena mattered to everyone involved.
“For me, this is the first rodeo of the new season,” said Trey Yates, a third-generation team roper from Pueblo, Colo., who came into the rodeo sitting first in this year’s circuit earnings. “The rounds pay good and the averages pay good. If you have a little luck and do some good, here, it’s kind of a head start for the new rodeo year. I had $5,400 won going into last January from this rodeo and I also qualified for Kissimmee, where you can win $20,000. So this is a big deal.”
Adding to the lure for Yates was the opportunity to see friends and fellow circuit competitors.
“You know, it is fun,” he described of the year end circuit championship. “I get along good with all these guys and just enjoyed being around all of them again. The rodeos were fun and it just doesn’t get much better.”
It didn’t get much better for barrel racer Ivy Conrado, either, as she won the buckle in her last Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo. Conrado recently moved away from Colorado and will be competing in another circuit in the future. Taking home the title in her final Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo was meaningful to the three-time NFR qualifier.
“It feels good,” Conrado said. “I moved down south, so I don’t see my family and my circuit friends as much. It is nice to see family and see people in the stands that I know and it means a lot to have people here that love me. Loveland is such a special arena for me,” she added about competing at The Ranch. “I grew up coming to Loveland, so it is such a home atmosphere.”
On the topic of home atmospheres, one of the fan favorites at every Colorado rodeo is barrel racer Shali Lord. Lord won the circuit finals rodeo, last year, and advanced to the RAM National Circuit Finals as a result. She took a different route to Kissimmee this year, as she won the year end champion title aboard Can Man by squeaking past Britanny Pozzi-Tonozzi in the tightest earnings race of all the events.
“It was exciting and a little nerve wracking at the same time,” said Lord about coming into the circuit finals with just $29.04 separating her and Pozzi-Tonozzi. “Can Man went and did his job like he does, like he knows how. He is so wonderful and he tries so hard.”
Lord also talked about her barrel racing competition from the circuit.
“This circuit, every year it seems like it takes more money to qualify for the circuit finals,” she said. “Every year it just gets tougher and tougher. I think we have a great caliber of nice horses in this circuit and awesome girls.”
After the dust settled and the enthusiastic crowd exited the Ranch-Way Feeds arena, the circuit’s president had nothing but praise for the rodeo’s venue.
“I can’t say enough about our venue,” Warpness said. “We’ve been at other venues, (but) working here with The Ranch for three years has been great. We just signed a new contract for three more years. Hopefully, we have found a home for the Mountain States Circuit.” ❖
— Rogers is a freelance writer and photographer located east of Parker, Colo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him on Facebook at Official Lincoln Rogers Writing & Photography Page.