EAGLE, Colo. – Ask any contestant what makes the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo special, they’ll talk about the setting, the crowds and the great bucking animals.
Whatever it is, the annual event is quite successful, and it’s just getting better with age.
“It’s awesome for a lot of reasons, but partly because it’s Colorado,” said Casey Colletti, one of the top bareback riders in the game from Pueblo, Colo. “It’s beautiful there. It’s by the river; it’s in the mountains. It’s Colorado in July.”
The Eagle County Fair and Rodeo is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 25-Saturday, July 28, and it provides a picturesque showcase of outstanding rodeo talent. Take Colletti, who is on pace to qualify for a second straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. A year ago, he rode Carr Pro Rodeo’s Grass Dancer for 86 points and a share of third place in Eagle. The $1,300 he earned helped him qualify for the NFR.
“I have one of the rankest pictures of my life from that rodeo,” he said of the Greg Westfall photograph of him and Grass Dancer from last July. “Pete Carr is there, and he brings all the great horses that we all want to get on. The cool thing about Eagle is that everything bucks so well there that you never know what’s going to win.”
That just adds to the excitement. Take Grass Dancer, for example, the 11-year-old buckskin mare has been to the NFR each of the last four years. At Eagle in 2009, she matched moves with Ryan Gray for a world record-tying 94 points.
“Eagle is a pretty special place, even if we’re just talking about the atmosphere,” said Carr, owner of the Dallas-based livestock firm. “The animals just love the weather there. It’s really cool for us as well when you figure we’re a Texas livestock company. Getting to go to Eagle in July from this kind of heat in Texas is a nice change for all of us.”
It worked out quite well for Louie Brunson, who won saddle bronc riding at Eagle a year ago. He and Carr’s Trail Dust matched up for 85 points, worth $2,800 for Brunson.
“That was my first time on that horse, but it seems like everything bucks good in Eagle,” said Brunson, 26, of Interior, S.D. “It’s just kind of a cool rodeo. It has a neat background and good stock.
“When you ride, they get awesome crowds. They packed that thing full. I couldn’t believe it.”
“It’s a good rodeo,” he said. “It’s a tough rodeo to get into, because there are so many guys who enter it. It seems like everybody shows up because you’ve got a chance to win on everything.”
Colletti agrees. There are only so many spots available in each of the roughstock events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
“It would mean a lot if I could win that rodeo,” said Colletti, who won $82,644 during his 10 days in Las Vegas for the 2011 NFR. “I’ve always wanted to win that rodeo. I’ve seen that buckle, and I’ve always wanted one. Plus it’s close to home.
“I’m not the local guy, but I’m the Colorado guy.”
And he’d love to make a big move on the back of a Carr horse.
“Those animals get out of the hot Texas heat, and they get in the mountains and that cool air, and it makes them feel better,” Colletti said. “When they feel that good, they show it. That’s pretty cool.”