The biggest little rodeo in the west celebrates 86 years of top quality rodeo
There is just something about a small town rodeo that just can not be duplicated by the big mega-event rodeos. Maybe it is the loyal fans that come every year and camp out for the duration of the rodeo. It could be getting to see family and friends that you haven’t seen since last year at the rodeo. There is a generational aspect to the fans of a small town rodeo like the 13 year old cowgirl that proudly stated that she first came to the rodeo when she was three years old and has been there every year since.
Every rodeo must have a team of volunteers and this is especially true of the small town rodeo as they are the life blood of the small rodeo. Small town rodeo volunteers don’t come from hundreds or thousands of miles away just to say they were a part of an event – they live in the community. They are the FFA, the Volleyball Team, the local firemen, members of the community churches, and the children of previous volunteers. When you get right down to it, it is the sense of community pride that sets the small town rodeo apart from the mega-events.
The Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo is held in Grover, Colo., and this year celebrates its 86th year of bringing a top flight professional rodeo to the plains of northeastern Colorado. To put on a rodeo for 86 years is an exceptional achievement, especially when you consider that Grover has a population of around 150 and is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. The two towns of any size which are close to Grover are Burns and Pine Bluffs, Wyo., and they are 23 miles away.
Don’t let Grover’s small size fool you. The Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo is approved by the PRCA and draws some top flight cowboys. It calls itself the “Biggest Little Rodeo in the West” and lives up to its billing.
The first rodeo put on in Grover was in 1921 and Earl Anderson took over the rodeo in 1929. Back then there was no arena and the rodeo was held under the town’s water tower. The only events that they had in the early years were bronc riding and horse races. Earl Anderson’s son Jack, who now is the driving force behind the rodeo, remembers the old chutes, “They were tied together with wire, bridge planks, ties, boards, and more bridge planks. It was stout enough to hold anything. The chutes are still in the original location and the first chutes gates were pretty good – they lasted until ’83.”
Up until 1947 there was no real arena fence and the ‘fence line’ was formed by the patron’s cars and trucks. Even today folks back their trucks right up to the fence, have a tailgate party and watch the rodeo. One enterprising group puts a flatbed along the fence line for a huge contingent of family and friends.
The whole atmosphere at the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo is pretty relaxed. The seating is close to the action and the arena fence is free of the annoying sponsor banners that obscure your vision. Camper parking is on the small hills overlooking the arena. No carefully laid out parking spaces – if it is big enough to hold your camper, that’s your parking space. Concessions are run by the local FFA which provides good quality food that is served by friendly kids and will not break your budget. Try going to a Rockies game and getting a tasty hot dog on a fresh bun and a soft drink for three dollars!
After the rodeo on Saturday night there is a free dance for the fans, rodeo contestants, area residents, and anyone else that wants to join in and have a great time. If you camped out or come early on Sunday morning, there is a rodeo breakfast hosted by the Pawnee Fire District followed by Cowboy Church.
For those who get to Grover early or stay late, there is one more thing that makes the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo unique. Back in the old days, Earl Anderson supplied the roughstock for the rodeo and after the first day of the rodeo the stock was pastured overnight at the Anderson ranch and the next day they were driven back to the arena by area cowboys. Today, the bucking stock is furnished by the famous Burns Rodeo Company of Laramie, Wyo., and in keeping with the old tradition, they are turned out to pasture overnight and then driven to the arena the next morning by volunteer cowboys from the Grover Community Club.
The Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo is held on Father’s Day weekend. Next year, why not take Dad to Grover and treat him to the tradition and excitement of the “Biggest Little Rodeo in the West”.
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