NORWOOD – Summer in the San Juans would not be complete without the Norwood Rodeo. It is the stuff a Coors commercial is made of – quintessential Colorado, quintessential small town and quintessential summer.
And, according to those involved, it is the quintessential family event.
The Fair portion of the San Miguel Basin Fair and Rodeo opened last weekend with a greased pig contest, professional FM motocross exhibition, western rock-n-roll barn dance, and dessert contest, followed by this week’s 4H livestock and art shows. The focus shifts to rodeo this Friday and Saturday with Junior Rodeo events and the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association Rodeo.
The Junior Rodeo begins Friday at 9 a.m. and includes events such as barrel racing, poles, breakaway roping, ribbon roping, and goat tying. For many, youth events like this are the highlight of the year.
“I like to watch the kids’ rodeo,” said San Miguel Basin Fairgrounds Manager Deanna Burbridge. “There are horses that take care of the kids who are 4 or 5 years old. They are so tuned in to the kids on their backs, it’s amazing to see them work.”
A fan favorite, mutton busting, has local kids competing in sheep riding. Similar to bull riding, but a lot safer and cuter, the competitor who stays on longest wins. The event is open to the first ten registrants each night. Check in for mutton busting is 6:30 p.m., both Friday and Saturday.
A new event, open to the public (this time the adults), is called steer dragging. Five teams of four can enter each night and each team will be given a number. Four steers will enter the ring and the goal is for the teams to grab the steer, with their same number, and drag it across the finish line between two barrels. The cash price is $250 and the first two teams to cross the line, with the steer, will get a piece of the prize.
The remaining events are a little more serious and better left for the professionals, who take center stage to compete in some of the same events as the juniors, with the addition of the big crowd pleasers – bull riding, bear-back riding, bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, and more.
According to Norwood Roping Club President and rodeo organizer Lo Snyder, there is a prize purse that will be divvied up between the top CPRA competitors in all events.
Snyder explained that $1,000 has been added to the purse for each rodeo event. He reckons there are about nine events, which adds up to $9,000 for the purse, in addition to prize money from entry fees. He hopes that by moving the rodeo back a week this year, they will have successfully attracted athletes who are also competing in next week’s Montrose Rodeo.
“We put it a week later this year,” he said, “and I hope everyone is going to come.”
Snyder will compete in calf roping, an event he said he’s, “faired okay [in], I guess.” And as for rodeo highlights, Snyder recommended, “All of it.”
Two other local Norwood competitors include the Williams sisters, 16-year old Harlie and 14-year old Jordan. Both will be competing in Junior Rodeo barrel racing, poles, breakaway roping, ribbon roping and goat tying events.
“You run down with your horse,” Jordan Williams explained, “cross the eye, then flank it and tie it.”
Pressed to elaborate, she explained, “There’s no roping involved—the goat is waiting there for you. You flank it – take the goat and flip it on its back – tie it – one front leg both back legs – then put your hand in the air to show you are done.”
In addition to Junior Rodeo events, older sibling Harlie Williams will compete in the professional rodeo in barrels and poles.
“I’ve been doing it since I remember,” Harlie said. “I like being with the horses and have learned it takes a lot of hard work and practice to be good. When you are good, it’s a lot of fun.”
Jordan agreed. “It’s a really good experience and you meet a lot of different people around the state.
“It’s a family event,” she added. “It’s the only sport where everybody’s family is there. It’s all about family; it’s a lifestyle.”
Gates for the professional rodeo open at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Entry is $9. For more information, visit www.sanmiguelcounty.org/fair/.