Greeley Stampede offers “Behind the Chutes” tours | TheFencePost.com

Greeley Stampede offers “Behind the Chutes” tours

Bridgett Weaver
bweaver@greeleytribune.com

Rodeo cowboys wait all year for the competitions that take place in June and July, which is the height of the rodeo season.

Now fans of the Greeley Stampede, one of the largest rodeos in the country, will be able to experience it from the chutes.

The Greeley Stampede will offer "Behind the Chutes" tours for the first time in many years that will give fans an inside look. The Stampede kicks off today at Island Grove Regional Park, 14th Avenue and A Street in Greeley. The 12-day event offers carnival rides, plenty of fried food and six concerts on the main stage, which include acts ranging from Lady Antebellum to Vince Niel of Mötley Crüe. Events also include a Fourth of July parade, a demolition derby and plenty of rodeos and bullfighting.

Stampede officials previewed the event, along with a look at the Behind the Chutes rodeo tours, Wednesday during an event for media. They showed off the area behind the chutes, and explained to a handful of journalists why it's so important for them to offer this as part of the Stampede experience.

“It’s the biggest week for rodeos in the entire year. Greeley is a great rodeo. And with all the added money, we get all of the top professionals here in our game. You put it all together with the best facility

— it doesn’t get any better than this.

— Will Rasmussen, Greeley Stampede rodeo official

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"As Greeley kind of blossomed, so did the sport of rodeo. And because it's such a rural community here in Weld County, it's become kind of a hub for (rodeo), and it has been for decades," said Katie Geist, the Stampede employee who will give the tours. "Everyone who loves rodeo, and loves Greeley, and especially loves rodeo in Greeley should be a part of this tour."

Tours will be given to the first 12 people to sign up at Window 6 of the ticket office. On weekdays, tours will start at 5:30 p.m. and on weekends, they will begin at 11:30 a.m.

There will be six PRCA events during the dozen days of the Stampede.

Geist said the tours will include a walk behind the chutes, a chance to meet some of the rodeo clowns and the professional cowboys who will ride in the rodeos, and even a trip out onto the arena floor.

"If they want to get that view from behind the stadium, and see what the cowboys see and what the bulls see, this is the place to do it," Geist said. "You're never going to get that experience otherwise."

It's especially cool to see behind the scenes at the Greeley Stampede rodeo because it brings in some of the biggest names in rodeo.

"You'll see these contestants (later) at the National Wrangler Rodeo," said Madelaine Mills, the 2016 Miss Rodeo Colorado, referring to the national rodeo finals in Las Vegas in December. Only the best make it to that competition.

She said a lot of those big-name professionals come to Greeley because the Stampede offers a lot of prize money. They will give out more than $300,000 in purses this year.

"They call it Cowboy Christmas because this time of year is when the money is up for grabs," Mills said.

Will Rasmussen, a Stampede rodeo official, said a lot of cowboys also look forward to competing in Greeley.

"This is a tremendous facility to have a rodeo," he said.

He said they choose Greeley out of probably 40 other rodeos that go on during the Fourth of July holiday. Almost 750 contestants are registered for events during the Stampede.

"It's the biggest week for rodeos in the entire year," Rasmussen said. "Greeley is a great rodeo. And with all the added money, we get all of the top professionals here in our game. You put it all together with the best facility — it doesn't get any better than this."

Behind the Chutes

To sign up for a “Behind the Chutes” tour, go to Window 6 at the main ticket office on the Stampede grounds. The tours will take off from the north side of the main ticket office at 5:30 p.m. on June 27, 28, 29 and 30, and at 11:30 a.m. on July 2 and 3.

Train safety

Great Western Railway in conjunction with Operation Lifesaver, would like pedestrians to be careful when walking during the Greeley Stampede.

“Earlier this year, the Great Western reactivated a line that had not been in use since 2008, and we felt it was important to remind the public to watch for trains and to stay safe as they head into the Island Grove Park for the Stampede,” said Kevin Shuba, CEO of OmniTRAX, the parent company of Great Western.

LeeAnn Sterling, the Colorado state representative for Operation Lifesaver and a Greeley resident, said a lot of accidents at rail corssings are preventable. She wants to make sure people know how to avoid the accidents.

Operation Lifesaver and Great Western came up with some safety tips for pedestrians to keep in mind during the event:

» Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.

» The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a designated public crossing with either a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate. Never attempt to cross tracks anywhere else.

» Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale “clackety-clack.” Any approaching train is always closer and moving faster than you think.

» It can take a mile or more to stop a train, so a locomotive engineer who suddenly sees someone on the tracks is likely unable to stop in time.

» Trains overhang the tracks on both sides; loose straps hanging from rail cars may extend even further. If you are within 50 feet of the tracks, the train can hit you.

» Do not cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. A second train might be blocked by the first. Trains can come from either direction. Wait until you can see clearly around the first train in both directions.

» Flashing red lights indicate a train is approaching from either direction. Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing, and do not cross the tracks until the lights have stopped flashing and it’s safe to do so.

» Do not attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb or your life.

» Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.