Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo was a huge success
What better way to celebrate the 4th of July in the West than to drive some Longhorns through downtown Colorado Springs, have a Chuckwagon Cook-off, and top it off with some of the best ranch cowboys getting together and seeing who is better at the jobs that they do every day.
If that is your idea of fun, then you would have fit right in with all of the folks at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. They were there to enjoy the Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo and Chuckwagon Cook-off.
Twelve teams from ranches in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, and Texas, came to Colorado Springs to compete for their chance to go to the ‘big show’ in Amarillo, Texas, in November. The Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) chooses the teams that compete in the World Championship Ranch Rodeo from those ranches that win a sanctioned ranch rodeo. Colorado currently has two sanctioned ranch rodeos, one in Hugo and the Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo in Colorado Springs.
Professional rodeo events in PRCA rodeos can more or less trace their roots back to jobs that working ranch cowboys did. However, that linage has gotten a little fuzzy over the years. You are not going to find too many working cowboys who will climb on bulls or jump from racing horses in the course of a normal working day. Ranch Rodeo and Professional Rodeo are completely different. It is not that one is better than the other – they are just different.
Ranch rodeo teams must be working members of a ranch. They have to work a minimum amount of time in a year – no ‘ringers’ allowed. The big difference is that the emphasis in ranch rodeo is on the team, just like it is every day on the ranch. With the obvious exception of Saddlebronc, team members compete as a team in each event.
Ranch rodeo events are based on things that are done all the time on a working ranch. Even the crowd favorite, Wild Cow Milking, has to be done on occasion, during the normal course of duties on a ranch. Thankfully, not too often, as it is the wildest and most ‘western’ of the events.
The concept of the WRCA and the sanctioned Ranch Rodeo came about when working cowboy turned cowboy poet, Waddie Mitchell got together with some other cowboys to create an organization with an educational arm to show folks where that hamburger came from, a Scholarship Fund for ranch kids, a venue for ranch cowboys to show off their skills, and a Cowboy Crisis Fund to help families of injured cowboys.
It is that Cowboy Crisis Fund that is the real reason behind the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo. It is the culmination of a partnership between two college friends, Mark Bukowski, a Director of the WRCA, and Robert Alexander, the President of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation.
“The Pikes Peak or Bust Foundation has for the past 60 years been raising money for military charities.” said Alexander, “What’s unique about this event is that we raise money for military charities, but also for the WRCA Cowboy Crisis Fund. Mark and I are real proud of the fact that we have a great community event where at the end of the day Mark Bukowski has a check for the WRCA Cowboy Crisis Fund and we have a check for our men and women in the military service.”
This year was a little different in that a Chuckwagon Cook-off was added. After the wagon judging and the judging of a required plate, the cooks set about doing what they do best, which is cooking good food for lots of people. Tickets were sold and the public could sample the fare from all of the wagons.
“What we are trying to do is to start a national tradition of a Chuckwagon Cook-off here at Norris-Penrose because on the 4th of July, there is not a lot going on with chuckwagons across the country.” said Mark Bukowski, “On top of the great location at the base of Pikes Peak, the wagons like being associated with ranch rodeo. A lot of the wagons here work on the big ranches.”
The ranch rodeo was a big success. There were some new ranches that did very well, but, in the end, experience rose to the top. Taking first place was the Haythorn Ranch from Arthur, Nebraska. For their win the team won $5000 and each team member won a buckle, but the most important thing was that the Haythorn Ranch had ‘punched their ticket’ to the WRCA Championships for the sixth time.
The combined team of Wilson Cattle and the T4 Ranch from Texas won second place. The Crutch Ranch, also from Texas, took third place. Two other coveted awards were won by the Sandhill Cattle Company which is located in Earth, Texas. Owner Trip Townsend won the best ranch horse award, which is presented by the AQHA, and his partner, Riley Smith won the Top Hand Award.
Gina Kaiser, a member of the ten person committee that put on the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo, was very pleased with the outcome of the event. “It was the best turnout that we have ever had. We’re really pleased. The Chuckwagon Cook-off was awesome. Contestants were very happy – it was a nice, nice, event. We don’t know the numbers for the charities yet, but it’s going to be good.”
Next 4th of July weekend make plans to attend the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo. You will see some great cowboy action and be contributing to a couple of worthy causes at the same time.
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