GUNNISON, Colo. – Casey Lincoln found his way to this community of 6,500 people through football.
After high school in southeast Arizona, he attended Mesa (Arizona) Community College to play the game he loved. After his time there, he received a scholarship to continue his education and his playing days at Western State University, and he fell in love with everything about Gunnison.
That’s why he returns every summer to volunteer his time and his talents to the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration, set for Saturday, July 5-Sunday, July 14, at Fred Field Western Heritage Center in Gunnison.
“The first year I was up there, in an attempt to learn more about the football program, I stayed in Gunnison and worked out with the football team,” said Lincoln, who now lives in San Tan Valley, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. “I got a job at a welding business, because I grew up doing it and became a certified welder in junior college.
“I just love the small-town feel of Gunnison.”
That’s why he makes the 12-hour drive every July to make sure he’s part of the community’s celebration.
“I really enjoy it in Colorado in the summer, and I made some lifelong friends with Kevin Coblentz and his family and others in town,” he said. “Some aren’t in town anymore, but they seem to come back to town every year for the rodeo.
“It was my home away from home for a couple of years, and it’s really good to catch up.”
Lincoln is one of dozens of volunteers who make Cattlemen’s Days work, and he isn’t the only one to travel a great distance just to devote several hours, time and talents to the process. Whether they are helping get the complex ready or helping with the 4H exhibits or greeting contestants at the rodeo, each task is important for the heritage of the celebration.
“The great thing about Cattlemen’s Days is that we have an outstanding group of volunteers that put in so much work just to make an event of this magnitude happen,” said Coblentz, president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee. “Some of the stuff we need done is hard labor, and we always have the people there to get it done.
“Casey is just one of several of our volunteers who travel to be here, and I appreciate them and all the others for all they do. Casey’s been a close friend of ours for several years, and we love to have him back every year for Cattlemen’s Days. He’s good people.”
Lincoln is also fascinated with rodeo. He’s a member of the Grand Canyon Pro Rodeo Association, an amateur group that has events primarily in Arizona and New Mexico.
“I grew up team roping and riding horses, but I never competed in actual rodeos, but it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart,” said Lincoln, who is a heavy equipment trainer and consultant for a Caterpillar dealership in the Phoenix area. “Going to Gunnison is a good vacation from work.”
And a good escape from the heat in Arizona. The average July temperature in his hometown is a high 106; meanwhile in Gunnison, the average July high temperature is 80.
“Getting away from the heat is a big reason why I go back,” he said. “But I also like the small town that Gunnison is. In Phoenix, from my house to work can take two and a half hours, depending on traffic. It’s a nice change of pace to go up to Gunnison, and you can drive across town in five minutes.
“It’s just a wonderful place to be in July.”