GUNNISON, Colo. – COVID-19 reared its ugly head around the world in 2020, and the isolation and devastation was only part of the problem.
For the Gunnison Roping Club, it meant an alteration to its traditional plans surrounding the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration, the biggest community event in all of the Gunnison Valley each year.
“The Watershed Team Roping is an event we’ve traditional held for years with the Cattlemen’s Days celebration,” said Ramon Ray, the club’s president and a longtime member. “It’s an event that’s set up for all of our local ropers, horse people or people that are interested in horses. To be eligible, you need to live in the Gunnison watershed.”
After a one-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, it will return Wednesday, July 14, and will again be part of this year’s Cattlemen’s Days, set for Thursday, July 1-Sunday, July 18, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.
“Last year, we were rebuilding the club, so when COVID stepped into play, I was very apprehensive about continuing with the ropings,” he said, noting that the club also organizes the Cattlemen’s Days Roping, which takes place on the final Sunday of the celebration, July 18. “We didn’t schedule the watershed roping because of COVID. As far as I can remember, it was the first time it’s ever been missed.
“We didn’t want to interfere with the rodeo and all they were doing to put the rodeo on last year. We’d rather see the rodeo continue, because that’s important for this community.”
While that was discouraging, it opens the doors for many positive things to happen in 2021. For one, last year’s Cattlemen’s Days was restricted, and the rodeo was postponed until Labor Day weekend. This year’s 19-day celebration is on its regularly scheduled time, and all events are expected to continue as normal.
“I think our team ropings are very important to the legacy of our community and the tradition of Cattlemen’s Days,” Ray said. “It’s time for our local ropers that have basically come up in our roping club to get back out in front of the audience and shine. It’s important for our spectators to come down and watch the roping, with the auction and everything else that goes on. They have a great time.
“It’s a community gathering, when people don’t see each other all the time during the winter months. After a while, when things like this happen, it’s pretty significant for that big moment during that one-time-a-year event.”
That includes the final Sunday event, which stands as a perfect way to bring closure to such a generational celebration.
“It’s an open roping to end our Cattlemen’s Days,” Ray said. “We have it for folks that are still here, including rodeo contestants that would like to participate. As the years have gone on, they have done a lot of things the same as the watershed roping, so it’s been a big part of Cattlemen’s Days.”