Gearing Up for 100th Greeley! |

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.)

Photo courtesy Greeley Stampede

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.

This historic photo shows the committee for the 1931 Greeley Spud Rodeo. At this time, the annual celebration in Greeley was still a part of the Greeley Chamber of Commerce and the chairman was appointed by the chamber board. From left to right: (back row) Ed Folbrecht, D.R. Griegg, Charles E. Evans, Harry Jacobson, George Horne; (middle row) Lloyd Farr, Luke Story, unidentified, unidentified, I.L. Page; (front row) Frank Shoemaker, M.E. Blick. Photo courtesy Greeley Stampede

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, as well as on facebook, twitter, Instagram and youtube.

Entertainment has always been high on the list at the historic Greeley Stampede venue. In this image, popular rodeo funnyman Leon Coffee heated up the 2012 Greeley Stampede crowd with his antics, while bullrighter Lance Brittan, right, tried to keep things calm. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
Switching dates from the long-standing July Fourth championship round of rodeo did not seem to affect the big crowds showing in 2019 on July 3 to watch the final round of rodeo. The Greeley stadium has a seating capacity of 8,500 people, with just a small number left available in 2019. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
The Greeley Stampede Rodeo has been the traditional home of the Miss Rodeo Colorado pageant since 1989 (the first Miss Rodeo Colorado was crowned in 1956). In this photo, 2015 Miss Rodeo Colorado, Marie Kidd, enjoyed the honor of carrying the colors throughout the Greeley Stampede arena before the start of championship round action on July 4, 2015. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
Fifteen-time NFR qualifier and three-time PRCA world champion bareback rider Will Lowe picked up his second Greeley Stampede buckle after this 2013 ride aboard Red Bandana in the July Fourth championship round of action. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
The winningest rodeo cowboy of all time, Trevor Brazile, added the Greeley Stampede to his collection of buckles as he and fellow team roper Patrick Smith (heeler) stopped the clock in 7.1-seconds during the short-go to win the 2013 Greeley Stampede team roping title on July Fourth. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
The experienced bull fighters at the Greeley Stampede Rodeo (Lance Brittan, left, and Wacey Munsell, right, in this 2012 photo) provided top-notch cowboy protection for years in the big summer rodeo and their fearless exploits were part of the draw. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
The Greeley Stampede Rodeo has long attracted the top names in the sport, as evidenced by 14-time NFR qualifier and five-time PRCA world champion steer wrestler Luke Branquinho winning the 2011 Greeley rodeo with a time of 5.1 seconds in the championship round. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
The Fourth of July parade has long been a popular tradition at the Greeley Stampede Rodeo. This parade in 2009 shows the front of the parade as it goes by thousands of people on both sides of the street, many of whom saved their seats the night before or arrived hours ahead of time that morning. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
Whether they are paraded through the inside of the Greeley Stampede arena or through the streets of Greeley, like this 2009 photo during the annual Fourth of July parade, the Longhorns have been a tradition at the Greeley Stampede for many years. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
While the championship round of rodeo no longer occurs on the July Fourth Holiday, a Greeley Stampede long-running tagline used to be "The World's Largest 4th of July Rodeo and Western Celebration." Although the rodeo schedule has changed in recent years to fit Greeley in among other large summer rodeos and reduce contestant turnout, the patriotic display of the American flag remains a fixture at the now century old event. This dazzling combination of horsemanship and Old Glory occurred in 2008, while the championship round of rodeo was still held on July Fourth. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
The carnival grounds at the Greeley Stampede have long been a family friendly draw to the rodeo and western celebration. From happy visitors in 2007 shown in this photo to record breaking crowds in 2021, the carnival is a major feature of the historic venue. Photo by Lincoln Rogers
Adding to its big rodeo feel, Beutler & Son Rodeo Company has been bringing buckers with bad attitudes to the Greeley Stampede for over three decades, as this bull rider in 2005 discovered first hand. Photo by Lincoln Rogers


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