GUNNISON, Colo. – The history of the Cattlemen’s Days celebration dates back to 1900, when folks in the Gunnison Valley were looking for a way to gather together to celebrate.
Now in its 123rd year, it continues to be a community gathering and so much more. Generation after generation has grown up in Gunnison County making their way to town every July to show what they’ve raised or enjoy the rides or take in the award-winning professional rodeo.
This year’s edition of the Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo is set for Thursday, July 13-Saturday, July 15, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison. It’s been recognized by the cowboys who play the game, honored as one of the elite rodeos in North America with its nomination for PRCA Medium Rodeo of the Year. It’s also been named the best medium-size rodeo in the Mountain States Circuit.
“It is Colorado’s longest continuous running rodeo in America and the third oldest rodeo in the country,” said Andy Stewart, the event’s rodeo announcer. “It’s part of history in a great ranching town. The people are wonderful, and the scenery is beautiful. It’s one of my favorite rodeos.”
What’s not to like? Cattlemen’s Days was built on a foundation laid by hard work, passion and caring for one another. Whether it’s the sixth generation of one family showing livestock or a newcomer to this community patching a quilt together to put on display, this event is for all to enjoy and preserve.
More importantly, it’s become a global happening. People from all over the world have made their ways to this Rocky Mountain town with picturesque views and a feeling of home. Beyond that, the week of Cattlemen’s Days is also reunion week for families and classmates who return to their hometown to honor their heritage.
“Before any of us were ever born, this celebration was a big part of the Gunnison community, and it is our job to not only continue Cattlemen’s Days but to enhance it and make it better for years to come,” said Brad Tutor, first vice president of the volunteer committee that produces the annual event. “We work with other community leaders to bring this thing together, and we take a lot of pride in it.”
They should, because it is a vital piece of Gunnison lore. It was established in a time when travel wasn’t nearly as easy and when the conveniences of life weren’t within reach on a minute-to-minute basis. For those that weren’t raised around agriculture, Cattlemen’s Days offers the opportunity to learn the origins of their food while doing so in a fun and entertaining setting.
“We pride ourselves on helping bring the people in our community together,” Tutor said. “Of course, our marquee event is the rodeo. We have the best stock contractor in rodeo with Stace Smith, and that, in turn, helps us draw the best cowboys to town. It’s really the show to see during Cattlemen’s Days.”
In fact, the rodeo has featured record numbers of contestants in recent years. Before they earn their world championship gold buckles, they first make their way to Gunnison to showcase their talents for thousands to see.
“It’s just an awesome event overall that does so much for all of Gunnison Valley,” Stewart said.