Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo | TheFencePost.com

Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo

Story & Photos by Lincoln Rogers
Parker, Colo.

The Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo had it coming for 25 years. All the hard work and hundreds of volunteers paying yearly attention to every detail and every contestant finally paid off with the PRCA’s Small Rodeo of the Year designation in 2011, and 2012 was their celebration.

“It is so awesome,” said Norm Almquist, past President of the Elizabeth Stampede and 21-year volunteer, about earning the PRCA’s top award for small rodeos. “We were all so thrilled. It was given to us at the National Finals banquet and there was a whole room of people, and when we got it the whole room heard us yelling,” he added with a grin. “It made us feel really proud and really appreciative. We worked a long time for it and to finally get it was great.”

Not only did Elizabeth reach the pinnacle for small rodeos last year, they also celebrated 25 years of being a PRCA rodeo in 2012. Starting off many decades ago with, according to Stampede officials, “just 10 guys deciding they were going to put on a rodeo,” the Elizabeth Stampede was able to obtain PRCA certification 25 years ago, putting them on the rodeo map and making them a destination for not only circuit cowboys and cowgirls, but top-notch contestants throughout the sport. It’s a theme that has replayed during the venue’s successful history.

“This may be a small town, but it’s a big rodeo,” said former volunteer Joe Teitsworth in a 2006 on-site interview. “You can still make a name for yourself here. Cowboys and cowgirls like Jess Martin, Charlie Swallow, Kristie Peterson and (Bruce Ford) have all competed here.”

While volunteers still remember the rodeo’s past, current crowds are treated to big names in the sport during virtually every performance. A glance through competition sheets over the last decade reads like a who’s-who in the game: Kelly Timberman (bareback world champion), Brittany Pozzi (barrel racing multiple world champion), Dean Gorsuch (steer wrestling multiple world champion), Cody Hancock (bull riding world champion), Josh Peek (multiple tie down and steer wrestling NFR qualifier), Seth Glause (multiple bull riding NFR qualifier), Royce Ford (multiple bareback NFR qualifier). The list could go on and on, which is a sign of how well the small rodeo treats its contestants.

“This is one of my favorite rodeos,” commented Wyoming bareback rider Kelly Timberman in 2008. “I like the setting; it’s in the trees and it’s nice. It’s just one of these rodeos that all of us guys, especially the circuit guys, look forward to coming to. It’s close to home, it has good stock, it pays well, and it’s just a good atmosphere.”

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“I tell you what, that is one of my favorite rodeos,” offered Josh Peek, a talented Tie Down Roping and Steer Wrestling cowboy from Colorado, when answering questions in 2009. “The spectators are awesome and they take good care of the cowboys. When you feed and take good care of the cowboys and you welcome them into a rodeo the way that they do, people want to come back.”

“It’s really one of the better circuit rodeos because their ground – they rake after every barrel racer – and they have added money,” observed Colorado barrel racer and fan favorite Shali Lord in 2005. “It’s a great small rodeo (and) everybody works really hard there to put it together.”

Working hard is a trademark of the nearly 200 volunteers who sacrifice time throughout the entire year to make the Stampede the best it can be.  According to rodeo organizers, those hundreds are the secret to its incredible run of success.

“I think it’s the volunteers, they’re so dedicated,” said Robert Wolf, who was Treasurer and Board Member back when he was interviewed in 2003, about what makes the event so special. “No one gets paid to help put this rodeo together, (yet) every year we’re always getting new volunteers and the enthusiasm is always rebuilding.”

“The volunteers wouldn’t work any harder if they got paid for it,” agreed past President Tom Stockton about a decade ago. “You don’t have to ask them to do their jobs. Nobody wants to let anybody down.”

The ticket-buying public is never let down by the great action occurring annually inside the Stampede’s large outdoor arena, and Burns Rodeo Company is a big reason why. Hal Burns, owner of the Wyoming rodeo stock contracting company, has a reputation for developing ornery bulls (including the legendary Mr. T, the first bull ever inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame). His love for the sport of rodeo pushes the Wyoming contractor to bring top-flight rough stock to every venue he supplies.

“The most important person at a rodeo is the ticket-buyer,” stated Burns of his drive to provide rank rodeo stock to match every contestant. “You don’t do this for the money. You do it because you love it.”

From hospitality for contestants, sweating details such as raking between every barrel racer or coming up with innovations for fans like bull riding only on Friday nights and making Sunday afternoons a tribute to the military, the Elizabeth Stampede is always thinking of ways to provide the biggest bang for its rodeo buck.

“Our fans, contestants, vendors, our sponsors … these are our guests, and we’re trying to treat them like they are our guests,” explained Almquist in a prescient 2010 interview. “We want to be best small rodeo of the United States.”

According to the PRCA … mission accomplished.

• Bareback: Casey Colletti, 85 points on Jake Spoon, $1,910

• Steer Wrestling: Dean Gorsuch, 4.3 seconds, $1,563

• Saddle Bronc: Merritt Smith, 76 points on Gypsy, $1,285

• Tie Down: (tie) Mitch McAdow and Joe James, 10.6 seconds, $1,297 each

• Team Roping: Calvin Brevik/Kory Bramwell, 5.1 seconds, $1,839 each

• Barrel Racing: Sabrina Ketcham, 16.12 seconds, $1,405

• Bulls: (tie) Cody Rostockyj on Big Stuff, and Guytin Tsosie on My Friend, 82 points, $1,226 each