Rooftop: A destination rodeo

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Steer wrestler Shane Frey competes at a recent Rooftop Rodeo, an event at which he competes annually because of the prize money available and because of the beautiful views in Estes Park, Colorado.

Cowboys, cowgirls always look forward to competition, visiting Estes Park

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Many American families will travel halfway across the country just to vacation in this majestic community.  

For rodeo cowboys and cowgirls, Estes Park is just a beautiful stop along their winding path to make a living and chase their dreams at Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 5-Monday, July 10, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds.

Some come early or stay a day or so late in order to take in all that the town has to offer. From golf to boating to dining and shopping, touring one of the most famous haunted hotels or parading through the Rocky Mountain National Park, there are so many ways to find joy and enjoy the cool mountain air in this scenic destination.

“Last year we had three or four days where we didn’t have anywhere to be,” said steer wrestler Shane Frey of Duncan, Oklahoma. “I decided I’m going to make a mini-vacation out of it. We’ve done a lot of stuff. One year we rented an ATV and went into the mountains. Last year we rented a cabin and stayed for a few days. We’ve also rented boat and went out on the lake.”

The cowboys in his rig were also competing at the rodeo, which features six straight days of action. He’s earned money in Estes Park before, and he knows there’s a good chance he can do so again.

“It comes along right after the Fourth (of July),” he said, noting the busy time of the schedule where contestants may compete at multiple rodeos in a day while traveling hundreds of miles in a stretch just to get from one locale to another. “We’re all pretty tired, and to get to Estes Park for a couple of days gives us a chance to unwind.

“It’s a beautiful town with a lot to do. It’s a good place to just relax and wind down after the busy Fourth run.”

There are hundreds of other contestants who feel the same way. Not only are they competing for a large purse, they also will do so in an arena that is surrounded by the picturesque Rockies. They will do it in a town that’s built for tourists. They will see sights and drive go-karts and do all the other things vacationers do. They’re just a little more adept at being on the road.

Cowboys and cowgirls travel tens of thousands of miles, going from one rodeo to the next. They crisscross interstates and U.S. highways and peel off on roads only locals know about. It’s a gypsy lifestyle, one that’s engrained through passion and built on the race for rodeo gold, the elusive world championships awarded each year. Hundreds will make their way to Rooftop Rodeo in doing so.

“I love Estes Park,” said saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer, a six-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Elsmere, Nebraska. “It is one of the prettiest places in the world. The committee bends over backwards for you, too. It’s great.”

The rodeo is a town event, but dozens of volunteers step up to help handle many of the duties that take place during rodeo week. Like the contestants, the Rooftop Rodeo volunteer team has a passion for the sport and for Rooftop Rodeo. They are host to thousands of fans who come to the rodeo each night.

“This is one of my favorite rodeos to enter,” said bareback rider Lane McGehee of Victoria, Texas. “The rodeo adds more money every year, and the hospitality is always great. The atmosphere is great. This is one of my favorite rodeos in all the pro circuit.”

That’s saying a lot. A typical year sees more than 700 ProRodeos across North America, all varying in size. The smallest are rodeos that feature lesser purses, then there are medium size rodeos like Estes Park. Winners will pocket, on average, around $5,000. The winners in Houston each cleared more than $50,000.

Each event has its own flavor. Pendleton, Oregon, is known for its football field that is encircled by a horse track, and Rooftop Rodeo is smack dab in the middle of mountain beauty with a photogenic lake across the way.

“That rodeo is a good setup,” Frey said. “The arena’s good, and there are usually good cattle. That committee is good, and they set it up to make it good for the guys to get in and get out.

“I really like that rodeo, partly because of where it’s at and partly because that committee does a really good job.”

Gates for Rooftop Rodeo open at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 5-Monday, July 10, with the preshow beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the rodeo beginning at 7 p.m. For more information about Rooftop Rodeo, which is a Town of Estes Park signature event, or to order tickets online, log on to Other ticket inquiries may be made by contacting the Town of Estes Park Events office at or (970) 586-6104.


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