Pros help rodeo reach elite status

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A horse from Stace Smith Pro Rodeo showcases the athleticism that many Smith bucking animals possess, and that’s just one reason why the Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo entrusts the Texas-based livestock producer and other award-winning professionals with making Gunnison’s rodeo a success.

GUNNISON, Colo. – The foundation for success is surrounding oneself with the very best.  

It’s a philosophy used by the local organizers of the Gunnison Valley’s biggest annual event, and it’s paying off. The Cattlemen’s Days celebration will honor its 123rd year this July, and that principle is why its ProRodeo has been honored as one of the best. Fans will have the opportunity to witness it all during this year’s rodeo, set for Thursday, July 13-Saturday, July 15, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

Cowboys in the Mountain States Circuit have recognized the Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo as the best in its classification. That honor came in 2019. Last year, the contestants and other members of the PRCA upped the honor, nominating the Gunnison rodeo as one of the top five Medium Rodeos of the Year from events across North America.

“We have some dedicated volunteers who have given their time and their effort to make our rodeo as great as it can be,” said Brad Tutor, first vice president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee. “We decided a long time ago that we wanted to have the best in the business working our rodeo.

“That’s why we went out and hired Stace Smith, who is one of the greatest stock contractors in rodeo. That’s why we brought in Andy Stewart, who has been nominated so many times as Announcer of the Year. That trend has just continued.”

The cowboys have recognized that. Only five rodeos in each of four categories receive nominations; that’s quite an honor. Of the nearly 700 events the PRCA sanctions each year, Cattlemen’s Days was recognized as one of the top 20 overall. Gunnison’s name has been mentioned along with events like the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede, Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days, Rodeo Houston, the Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up and several other highly honored events.

“Just to have your name in the same category with those rodeos is an amazing experience,” said Tyler Hanson, the volunteer group’s second vice president. “It says a lot about our committee to be in the same category as those rodeos. It says a lot about our community, too.”

From 2004-14, nobody in rodeo was better than Texas-based Stace Smith Pro Rodeo, which was named PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year for 11 straight campaigns. The firm is just one of several pieces to an incredible puzzle that makes Cattlemen’s Days such a well-recognized event. The committee has added several other award-winners to the mix.

Amanda Corley Sanders was recognized as the PRCA Secretary of the Year in 2017, and she handles the behind-the-scenes workload in Gunnison. Shawna Ray was the 2019 Timer of the Year, and she will return to the valley for the second straight year. Ted Harbin, a media award winner for both the PRCA and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, has been part of the team since 2017.

Funnyman Cody Sosebee, the 2018 Comedy Act of the Year, returns to showcase his brand of entertainment, while fellow Arkansan Robby Freeman adds his specialized eye to the show as the 2021 Photographer of the Year.

“Every person that comes to Gunnison to work with our rodeo brings his or her own talents with them,” Tutor said. “When you bring in professionals with that kind of ability to help you put on a community event like this, you are telling everyone that you care. We care about Cattlemen’s Days, and we care about our rodeo.

“These people become family to us, and we look forward to having them come home to us every year.”


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