King of the mountain
Mountain States Circuit crowns its best rodeos for 2022
Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
Editor’s Note: While circuit representatives and all three category winners were contacted for comment, multiple efforts to reach Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo and the Mountain States Circuit were unsuccessful in obtaining a response.
Having a successful rodeo is one thing. Being named by your peers in the region as the “best” in the circuit is another. At the annual Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo in October, the circuit crowned its top rodeos for 2022: Cheyenne Frontier Days won Large Rodeo of the Year — Elizabeth Stampede won Medium Rodeo of the Year — Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo won Small Rodeo of the Year.
“We are beyond excited for this award!” said Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo President, Traci McClain. “It means so much to us because it is voted on by the cowboys and cowgirls in our circuit, so it’s a true representation of the ones who know and have been to our rodeo. It truly is one of the highest compliments that they could give us.”
“It is a huge honor,” agreed Jason Bain, Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Committee Chairman. “It is essentially voted on by your peers. Our goal is to put on the best rodeo we can and to treat the contestants as well as we can and make sure it is a good time for everyone.”
While the Mountain States Circuit spans just two states — Wyoming and Colorado — it boasts 45 rodeos. According to a Mountain States Circuit social media post, those 45 rodeos are “only rodeos (and) does not include other special, championship or stand-alone events.” That number includes some of the largest and most tradition-rich events in the sport. Recognizable venues like Cheyenne, Cody, Denver and Greeley have officially been running rodeos for 100 years or longer and purses for large rodeos in the circuit start at hundreds of thousands of dollars and reach as high as Cheyenne’s one-million-plus total payout. With so much western spirit in the region, winning the “best” title is no small achievement.
“There are great rodeos in the mountain states,” said Bain about the competition. “To be continually one of the top rodeos in the area, it is wonderful and it is very hard. Obviously, our goal is to put on the best rodeo we can and to treat the contestants as well as we can and make sure it is a good time for everyone. Winning the award is not our goal, (but) if that honor comes, then that just kind of proves we are headed in the right direction and doing the right things for the contestants.”
“There are some amazing rodeos out there and to be named the best really means a lot,” McClain said. “We celebrated 35 years of being a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo this year and we have quite a few volunteers who just celebrated 30 plus years on the committee. So they have been there from the start. Our volunteers are our ‘secret sauce!’ They work so hard to be the best at what they do and they do it all with a smile and the best attitude.”
IN PRAISE OF VOLUNTEERS
As McClain noted, without volunteers, there would be no best of the best. While the small town of Elizabeth brings together hundreds of volunteers throughout the year for its award winning event, Cheyenne Frontier Days attracts thousands to keep its world famous traditions alive and kicking.
“Honestly, probably the largest thing would be our 2,500-plus volunteers,” said Bain about the main reason for Cheyenne’s long-standing success. “This is a year-round endeavor. We finish there at the end of July, everybody takes a little bit of a breath and then we are right back to planning for next year’s show. It is a year-round endeavor. A large percentage of the community is involved with Cheyenne Frontier Days, whether directly or indirectly during that time. It really is a community event.”
Both Frontier Days and the Stampede have won the circuit’s best rodeo award in their categories numerous times, along with being nominated for and winning the PRCA’s best rodeo title in their respective classifications on multiple occasions. Part of what makes them successful is a drive to keep getting better and never resting on their laurels.
“Every year we take the feedback from the contestants, from our guests, and we change what we need to change (and) make small tweaks,” said Bain. “That year we changed our format to a tournament style, that was a huge change for us, but other than that we just make small tweaks. We don’t want to overdo it and go too far one way or another. And we just kind of slowly build until we get it right. We are not always perfect, (but) we try everything we can to make it as good as it can possibly be.”
“As always, we are already planning for next year and beyond,” said McClain about Elizabeth also putting in a year-round effort. “From increasing our added money, more specialty acts, revised vendor locations, and performance themes, (our committees) had some great ideas for next year. Additionally, our longer term plan includes securing sponsorships and making plans to rebuild our grounds into a more modern facility that can better handle the influx of spectators we have been experiencing lately. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
With 45 rodeos working hard to keep the spirit of the west alive and well in the Mountain States Circuit, the future for rodeo looks bright.