Rooftop arose like a phoenix

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Jordan Tierney, who reigned as Miss Rodeo America for 2000 and 2001, carries the American flag for the national anthem during the opening of one of Rooftop Rodeo’s performances.

Estes Park rodeo was lifted from ashes of the pandemic into a fruitful event

ESTES PARK, Colo. – The volunteers that formulate this community’s annual ProRodeo were a bit skeptical last year.

Still in the throes of the pandemic, the organizers were unsure of what to expect with Rooftop Rodeo. With more than 90 years under the rodeo’s belt, the Estes Park Western Heritage Inc. – a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual event – faced unprecedented times.

“Last year was the hardest year I have ever been involved with, but it was also the most satisfying experience in helping put the rodeo together,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of Western Heritage. “Things were changing so quickly, so in January, I asked our board to meet once a week on Zoom.

“At the end of April, we were at 30 percent of our normal cash sponsorship. On May 4, we learned that we could hit the go-switch and have our rodeo, but we knew we had to get serious. We had to cut back on a lot of things. We canceled mutton busting and the behind-the-chutes (tour), and they didn’t get added back until three weeks before our rodeo.”

It was a lot of late decisions by the committee, which is already focused on this year’s 96th anniversary of Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 6-Monday, July 11, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds. But that came with the territory in 2021. At least people were up for gathering together, which wasn’t the case two years ago when COVID had its grips on the world.

“By June 20 of last year, we were at 100 percent of our cash sponsorships,” Purdy said. “By rodeo time, we were at least 20 percent above that, a record amount of sponsorships for our rodeo. It’s a testament to the generous people of our community. Our sponsors not only gave, but they kept giving.

“We were blessed that the town had canceled everything before the rodeo, so we were the first public event to happen in Estes Park last year. We broke every record we had: a record number of contestants; a record number of fans in the seats; even our saloon had a record, selling 35 percent more than it had ever sold.”

It was also a testament to the resiliency of the Western Heritage members who kept their heads down and focused on what they could muster. They knew that battling through the restraints of a global pandemic would be the right medicine, and they wanted to give that to the community and the visitors who make Estes Park a summertime hot spot.

From the dust of the volcano that was COVID to its best year ever, Rooftop Rodeo continued to blossom through the challenges of the pandemic and beyond.

“It was just a band of us getting together and gutting it out, hoping for the best and planning for the worst,” Purdy said. “Luckily it turned out well.”


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