EAGLE, Colo. – Rodeo cowboys and cowgirls make their livings crisscrossing the countryside, stopping briefly for the competition that drives them.
Each July, hundreds make sure to include the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo on their schedules, and the 2019 version was no exception. The big number weren’t just the contestants, but also the scores posted throughout the four days of the exposition.
“I think what makes our rodeo so good is a combination,” Fair Manager Tanya Dahlseid said. “It’s definitely the stock contractor, the contestants, the location and the community. It’s just a good mix. It’s very excitable. It’s cool to have the crowd so into it.”
There was a lot to be excited about. Saddle bronc rider Rusty Wright set a new standard in his discipline, riding Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket for an arena-record 91 points on the final night of the rodeo on July 27. That just made for an explosive explanation point to a fantastic week of rodeo.
“It seems we come to Eagle every year,” said Wright, 23, a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Milford, Utah. “I love coming here. Pete’s got awesome horses. It doesn’t matter what day you’re coming, you know you’re going to get a good one; it’s just up to how well your ride to see if you’re going to get some money.
“The fans are loud. I got off today, and the fans were cheering so loud, I couldn’t help but throw my hat.”
He wasn’t the only winner that loved the crowd and loved posting a high-marked ride. Bull rider Trevor Reiste, an NFR qualifier from Linden, Iowa, was 86.5 points to win bull riding, while Steven Dent was 89 points to claim the bareback riding title.
It was whirlwind stops for all the contestants in the field. Some rode in Cheyenne, Wyoming, during the day, then drove to Eagle to compete that evening. After their rides and runs, they were off again. Most of the time for ProRodeo cowboys and cowgirls is spent chasing white lines.
During the week of Eagle’s rodeo, there were 28 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events across the country, and about a half dozen within close proximity. Since the contestants feed their families on the money they win, they need to get to as many stops as possible.
“I try to come here regularly,” said Dent, a nine-time NFR qualifier from Mullen, Nebraska. “I try to work the rodeos I can enter with Cheyenne.
“This is a great rodeo. It’s cool, and by now you’re tired of sweating. It’s got a great crowd.”
In fact, Dahlseid said, the rodeo featured its biggest attendance ever.
“Everything this year was up,” she said. “We’re probably up in admissions 5 percent from last year. All of our concessions and beer sales were up, and sponsorships were up.
“We had over 14,000 people come to this event, and we had no negative comments. I heard from multiple people, some that have been on different boards in San Antonio and other rodeos, and they said this was the best rodeo they’ve ever seen.”