Gearing Up for 100th Greeley!
Q&A with Greeley Stampede’s General Manager Justin Watada
Starting in 1922 as the Greeley Spud Rodeo to honor the local farmers and agricultural produce, the Greeley Stampede is celebrating its 100th year in 2022. Lincoln Rogers spoke to Greeley Stampede’s General Manager Justin Watada near the end of May to get his thoughts on the event turning 100 and its importance to the region, as well as their plans to celebrate the historic milestone. (Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
Lincoln: How excited are you for the Greeley Stampede to celebrate 100 years?
Justin Watada: It has been an interesting last couple of years with COVID and returning to have the first big event last year. Now to be able to get ready for the 100th is really exciting. Not only for the current committee, but talking with the past volunteers that have helped us to get to this point, it has been really neat to go through the archives and pull out all this information and start celebrating 100 years of Stampede history.
Lincoln: Going through the archives has to bring up a lot of context to the event and how important it is to Greeley and the area.
Justin Watada: The Greeley Stampede really impacts the northern Colorado region. What we heard from a lot of people is they really missed the Stampede. It was kind of like a reunion every year that brought the whole community together to Island Grove Park. They didn’t see people, especially during COVID, for a long time. For them last year, we heard stories of people waiting in lines for a funnel cake and it is because they wanted to get back out here and they were having a good time. Last year was the busiest we have ever had because people weren’t able to do any of that in 2020. We had lines everywhere. That sense of working off of last year and going into the 100th, there is just a lot of excitement down in the park right now.
Lincoln: What are some of your plans for the 100th?
Justin Watada: We have been spending a lot of assets on the new stage in the arena. It is a $2.5 million-plus project that we are frantically trying to get completed. The big stage is going to be twice as big. It is gigantic. It will really help us on the night show production side of not having to pull in the trailer. We do have a lot of 100th merchandise and 100 things to celebrate. We are going to have an event on the first Sunday called Family Sunday Funday and try to get back to more of the things they did in 1922, such as the cherry pie eating contests and the gunny sack races, more of those county fair type of activities. We added another arena event called the Heritage of Mexican Rodeo, which is similar to what they have at the National Western Stock Show. To wrap it all up this year on the Fourth of July, because of our sponsors we are able to make our fireworks show twice as big to cap off the 100th. Really, it is just continuing to add to the Greeley Stampede traditions that we were bringing back and getting going last year. We are just going to add to that and continue to put on a top rodeo and Extreme Bulls.
Lincoln: Why is it important for community traditions like the Greeley Stampede to keep going for 100-plus years?
Justin Watada: Looking back at it, this event started to honor the local potato farmers. Here in Weld County we are very ag heavy; it just kind of ties in with the mentality of a lot of people that live here. They like ag, they like rodeo, they like to have traditions. In 1922 they started it as the Greeley Spud Rodeo and they offered free coffee and ice cream, the merchants did, to try to get the farmers into town. It is kind of what we still continue today. We want to try and make sure the traditions our forefathers started in the 1920s will continue throughout the years, that we are carrying their legacy and that we are making the Stampede bigger and better every year.
Lincoln: It sounds like you are laser focused and looking forward to putting on the 100th.
Justin Watada: It would be great if we could hold time. Our eight full-time staff, we are more like the Wizard of Oz. We are behind the curtains. If we are frantically running behind the curtains, but on the outside our guests are having a great time and smiling, that is what we enjoy. We do have a super bowl and we know that big wave is coming up fast.
For more information on the 100th Greeley Stampede that will be running June 23-July 4, 2022, you can find them online at http://www.GreeleyStampede.org, as well as on facebook, twitter, Instagram and youtube.
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