EAGLE, Colo. – Bareback rider Bill Tutor has been to hundreds of rodeos throughout his six years in ProRodeo, but there’s something about returning to this mountain community along Interstate 70.
“Since I was a permit-holder, Eagle has always been an exceptional rodeo, so it’s really exciting to win it,” he said of the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24-Saturday, July 27, at Johnette Phillips Arena on the Eagle County Fairgrounds.
“The stock is always fantastic; you’ve got to be in the high 80s just to place there. To win the that rodeo is cool, because I’ve always put Eagle on such a pedestal.”
He’s proven the reasons, and he plans to return to this year’s event to defend his 2018 title. He was 90.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Bright Lights to claim the crown, and he knows once he returns that he will draw a similar horse the next time he arrives.
“One year, my traveling partner, Jake Brown, was 90.5 points and finished fourth,” said Tutor, a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Huntsville, Texas. “To be that many points and still finish fourth says a lot about that rodeo.
“It’s a great time of year to be in the mountains. The crowd’s always into it, and it’s a really neat arena. The rodeo committee treats you so well. As a cowboy, especially that time of year when you’re actually living on the road, it means a lot to have rodeo committees treat you like family.”
It has been nominated for Medium Rodeo of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, a distinction provided to the top five vote-getters in each of the four size categories. What’s bigger yet is that the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo was confirmed as one of the top 20 rodeos in the country.
It proves the hard work done by local volunteers and dedicated county personnel is paying off.
“They pack that arena every single night of that rodeo even though Eagle is a small town,” said Payden McIntyre, the defending steer wrestling champion from Douglas, Wyoming. “It’s easy to get to Eagle, but it’s hard to get down through the fairgrounds because there are so many cars there.
“It’s pretty impressive that a community that size can put together something like that every year.”
It’s one of the many reasons so many top cowboys and cowgirls make their way to the picturesque community. But McIntyre has other reasons to compete in Eagle; primarily, it’s part of the Rocky Mountain Circuit, a PRCA regional organization that features contestants and rodeos in Colorado and Wyoming. The circuit finale takes place each fall in Loveland, Colorado, and McIntyre is a six-time qualifier.
“It’s pretty awesome to win it,” he said, noting he’d earned the title one other time. “It’s a good circuit rodeo that’s going on during Cheyenne (Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming), so it’s a good one to sneak off to that week. Eagle is also one of the bigger circuit rodeos. By the time you’re done there, you’ve got a pretty good idea if you’re going to make the circuit finals.”
But the rodeo isn’t just a regional locale; it’s a big-time stop for the best in the game. In addition to Tutor, there are other NFR qualifiers that have found success in Eagle; world champions Spencer Wright and Ryder Wright shared the saddle bronc riding title last year, and the cowboys that placed in bull riding read like a who’s-who of ProRodeo’s elite.
“The purse is always good, so you can count on that,” Tutor said. “It’s definitely a good rodeo to boost you in the standings. It’s a beautiful rodeo, the setting is great, the weather is great and it has a great committee. You get Pete Carr as the stock contractor, so you know the horses are going to be great, and there’s always a big crowd.”
There are plenty of things to like about the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo.