GUNNISON, Colo. – There are a handful of barrel-racing events that take place in Gunnison every year, but the one everyone looks forward to most is the Watershed Legacy Barrel Race.
That’s because it’s part of the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration and will feature locals competing for prizes and bragging rights. The competition is set for Tuesday, July 13, at the Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.
“This barrel race and Cattlemen’s Days are huge,” said Keri George, one of the local organizers of the event and part of High Elevation Productions, which puts it on. “It’s just something all the local people, ranchers included, looks forward to every year because it’s been going on forever.”
Yes, it has, but that’s the fact behind most of the activities centered around Cattlemen’s Days, which is celebrating its 121st year. The festivities are set to bring the community together before haying season begins, and it’s something the locals and more look forward to each year.
It’s especially true since most of the activities were canceled a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The barrel race was one of the few Cattlemen’s Days events that did happen around the same time as the rodeo, which was postponed until September. For years, it was simply known as the Watershed Barrel Race, but the organizers added legacy to it three years ago.
“It’s fun, because people that used to rodeo out of Gunnison come to town and enter up,” George said. “We started the legacy because we wanted people who used to live here to be able to run during Cattlemen’s Days. Even if they moved away, they can come back and compete.
“We draw a pretty good crowd, and we still have the Calcutta. We also do youth, which usually draws about 15 girls, and then we’ll have at least 25 in the open.”
There’s an added benefit, too. The ladies with the top five times will compete during the Friday, July 16, performance of the rodeo. After the ProRodeo cowgirls make their runs, the five locals will have a chance to show off their talents and their talented horses. The fastest time of those five will be awarded a saddle.
“For as long as I can remember, they’ve had that race,” said George, the Cattlemen’s Days queen in 1982. “I ran in it a couple of times, but now I clerk it. It’s just a tradition. People in this town love the traditions, especially the tradition of Cattlemen’s Days.
“My dad was the treasurer for Cattlemen’s for years. I’m just carrying on that tradition.”