The Greeley Stampede Riders
No one envisioned in 1981 when the Greeley Stampede asked for volunteer riders to carry sponsor flags that 26 years later those volunteers would evolve into the Greeley Stampede Riders. The Stampede Riders are one of the best precision riding teams in the country and still staffed totally with volunteers. The Stampede Riders were formed in the spring of 1981 by Hank “Doc” Scheel. Since then the Riders have become the “Good Will Ambassadors” for the Stampede, representing the 11-day event all year at parades, rodeos and other functions.
The requirements for becoming a Stampede Rider are fairly simple ” good horsewomen who can work as a team, follow orders, are friendly, outgoing, enjoy serving their community and have a sense of commitment. Holly Day, a second year rider, put it this way, “you have to be an upstanding citizen because we are ambassadors for the Greeley Stampede”.
That ‘sense of commitment’ is pretty big too, as the Stampede Riders do a lot more than entertain rodeo fans. Practice starts in mid May and continues right up to the start of the Stampede in late June. Every Wednesday and Sunday, you will find the Stampede Riders out at Island Grove practicing four to six hours to be ready to perform at their best.
You can see The Stampede Riders at all the parades during the run of the Greeley Stampede. They also ride in other parades in the area such as Platteville, Eaton, Johnstown, Kersey, and Grover. In addition, they have two required parades each year ” Cheyenne Frontier Days and the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Denver.
It is not all riding, either. The Stampede Riders also act as ushers at the night shows, pick up overturned barrels during the Barrel Racing, pick up parts after the Demolition Derby, and work in a concession stand. The ‘beer booth’, as it affectionately called, is the main source of income for the all-volunteer organization. It is also the reason for one more requirement for becoming a Stampede Rider ” they must be 21.
The Stampede Riders are completely non-profit and have no major sponsors. You can imagine how much beer they have to sell just to purchase their beautiful, matching uniforms. Each rider has two hats, eight shirts, vests, two pairs of magnificent chaps, and skirts for hostess duties. That is a lot of time in the ‘beer booth’! They do have a wonderful, if low key, corporate partner in the Latigo Lariat. The Latigo Lariat donated the beautiful, electric blue tack that you see on their horses and the two matching saddle blankets.
Not everyone has the dedication and commitment to be a Stampede Rider, but there is one more factor that can not be overlooked, and that is the horse. Not all horses have the temperament to do precision drill riding. The biggest issue for the horse is the flags because they are new and different and they make noise.
“I did have trouble training my horse to work with a flag”, said Holly Day, “It took some time for her to get used to the noise. We hung flags over her feeder and all over her pen. They whipped in the wind and she eventually got used to them.”
The Stampede Riders meet all year round. During the Stampede, each of the Riders will put in about 100 hours. Anything that requires this much time and effort quickly becomes a family project. This is the 21st season as a Stampede Rider for Tammy Kanode, and her entire family supports her dedication to the Stampede Riders. As Tammy puts it, “I have four kids and they all help. I was pregnant with my 19-year-old during my first season, so he has been around this all his life”.
The members of the Stampede Riders are very close. As Meredith Miller, a charter member and third year drill coach, puts it, “I don’t have a sister, but I have lots of sisters here ” we are very close knit ” like a second family”. The Stampede Riders have a different pattern every year and Meredith is the originator of many of them. Her new pattern is called the Diamond V and was inspired by watching geese in flight.
On their web page, the Stampede calls them “those girls on horses”, but they are far more than that. The Stampede Riders may be un-funded volunteers, but they are professional in every sense of the word. Through their dedication and hard work they have definitely earned the title of “Good Will Ambassadors for the Greeley Stampede”. So the next time you see the Stampede Riders come into the arena, give them a big hand because they deserve it.
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