Much like Garth Brooks' famous country song, "Rodeo," the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo has it all: broncs, beer, dust, mud and, most importantly, the unmistakable roar of near-capacity crowds. From June 6 through June 8, spectators were treated to a thrilling array of events, including bareback riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. By the end of the weekend, world-class competitors broke arena records, those same competitors embraced the experience of the rodeo in Cortez, and countless families of spectators returned home with memories of a thrilling rodeo experience.
Although the Ute Mountain Roundup takes place in the relatively small town of Cortez, there is nothing small about the competition. In almost every event, highly ranked cowboys and cowgirls fill the program. According to renowned rodeo announcer, Jody Carver, the strength of the competition at the Ute Mountain Roundup is part of what makes the event unique.
"I work about 38 different rodeos in 28 different states throughout the year," Carver said. This event is unique in that the committee brings in the greatest barrel men, bullfighters and stock contractors. The quality of the personnel makes this a great rodeo to watch."
MULTIPLE ARENA RECORDS
Considering the long and storied history of the Ute Mountain Roundup, setting an arena record is no easy task. Even so, several records fell before the curtain fell on this year's competition.
In the team roping event, Derrick Begay and Cesar de la Cruz were outstanding, roping their steer in a mere 4.1 seconds. That time was good enough to set a new arena record and earn the pair $1,835 each. Blain Vick and Chad Williams finished second, and the team of Tanner Baldwin and Devon Burris finished third with times of 4.7 seconds and 5.0 seconds, respectively.
Not to be outdone by the team ropers, several cowgirls showcased their skills in the barrel racing, proving that this year's Roundup was about more than just the boys. Marisa Sampson won barrel racing with a time of 17.27 seconds, which was good enough to set a new arena record. Lacey Wilson finished second with a time of 17.32 seconds, and Christy Loflin finished third with a time of 17.39 seconds.
Battling an array of strong steers that were brought to the rodeo by HoneyCutt Rodeo Stock Contractors, several cowboys came through with solid times in the tie down roping. Johnny Savlo won the event by securing his steer in 9.8 seconds. Calvin Brevik finished second with a time of 10.1 seconds. Donovan Yazzie rounded out the top three, finishing with a time of 13.2 seconds.
In the bareback riding, Tyler Scales and Casey Colletti tied for first place with 79 points each. Each first place rider received $978. In the saddle bronc riding, Cody Martin came away victorious with a score of 80 points.
Concluding each night of competition, bull riding, always a crowd-favorite event, did not disappoint. Competing in what is considered one of the most exciting and dangerous athletic undertakings in the world, Ivan Shane Yazzie came away victorious with a score of 85 points. Camo Mullins and Hernald John tied for second with each man scoring 79 points.
Competitors appreciate opportunity
On the road day after day, competing night after night, pro-rodeo competitors certainly see their share of towns and arenas each year. For many competitors, the Ute Mountain Rodeo is a favorite.
"The rodeo here is really good," said Travis Bounds, a team roper from Grand Junction. "The committee is really good to work with. They take care of their cowboys and they show great hospitality."
Rebecca Hughes, a barrel racer from Eunice, N.M., echoed Hughes' comments.
"The rodeo committee has done a really good job of making us feel welcome," Hughes said. "The food at the hospitality tent and they have provided us with electricity and places to keep our horses."
Hughes relishes the opportunity to compete in Cortez, describing competition at the Montezuma-County Fairgrounds as a treat.
"I really like the arena setup," Hughes said. "(Cortez) is kind of a neat town as far as looks and being in the mountains."
What becomes clear chatting with competitors is that the Ute Mountain Roundup is truly special. Combining small-town charm, top-notch hospitality, elite competition, and a beautiful setting, the Ute Mountain Roundup serves as a unique event of which the Cortez community can be proud.
Rodeo brings families together
For competitors and spectators alike, rodeo is, first and foremost, about family.
"I've been coming to this rodeo every year since I was little," said Cortez resident Justin White. "No doubt I'll be back next year."
Matt Knisley, another Cortez resident, echoed White's comments. "My family brought me here growing up. Now I have my daughter here. This is a pretty cool event that brings friends and families together."
Speaking about more than just his immediate family, team roper Travis Bounds summed up the family nature of rodeo beautifully.
"We're like one big family as far as the rodeo goes," Bounds said. "Kids want to grow up to be cowboys. They show up, see us as roll models, and everyone has a good time."
For the 83rd consecutive year, the Ute Mountain Roundup provided a good time. Thanks to stellar competitors, an outstanding rodeo committee and many wonderful spectators, memories of this year's Ute Mountain Roundup will live on for years to come.