As the clock struck seven and the sun shone down at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on June 7, multicolored fireworks shot into the air as the 88th rendition of the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo opened with a bang.
Announcer keeps crowd engagedSitting on his horse in the center of the arena before competition began, renowned rodeo announcer Jody Carper adjusted his cowboy hat and prepared for an exciting night.
A mainstay at the Ute Mountain Roundup for several years, Carper’s ability to mix off-the-cuff humor and exciting play-by-play commentary has made him a fan favorite throughout the country and an integral part of Cortez’s three-night rodeo event.
Sometimes playfully jabbing team ropers and other times providing pertinent descriptions of world-class performances by cowboys and cowgirls, Carper kept fans engaged and informed throughout the evening.
Asked what keeps him coming back to the Ute Mountain Roundup year in and year out, Carper spoke of his affinity for the Cortez community and his appreciation for what he described as a special event.
Although portions of Carper’s commentary was spontaneous, the veteran announcer said that he spends approximately 20 hours per week preparing for a schedule that includes approximately forty rodeos each year.
“The people make this rodeo special,” said Carper, who is announcing at the Ute Mountain Roundup for the tenth time. “The crowds, the people who run the rodeo, the sponsors, there are just quality people here. That makes it so much fun for us to come.”
Rodeo clown lives up to ‘Wild Child’ nicknameWhile Carper’s smooth voice kept audience members engaged, the antics and acrobatics of rodeo clown Troy “Wild Child” Lerwill provided countless highlights during the Ute Mountain Roundup’s opening night.
Lerwill, a former bullfighter, entered the arena dressed in a yellow undershirt, oversized overalls and a sombrero that appeared much too big and immediately began cracking jokes that often referenced his mother-in-law.
The highlight of Lerwill’s performance came midway through the evening after a truck with a large ramp affixed to its bed entered the arena and Lerwill took a position near a blue and white dirt bike.
After a hilarious act that included Lerwill struggling to start the machine and nearly falling out of the seat when the dirt bike’s engine roared to life, the rodeo clown lived up to his ‘Wild Child’ nickname by racing around the arena on his rear wheel and eventually jumping the truck.
“I started out bullfighting and then started to get older,” said Lerwill, when asked what led him to become a rodeo clown. “I started doing the comedy part of it, and I had a background in motorcycles. I started doing a motorcycle act, and it eventually turned into this.”
Now performing in his fourth Ute Mountain Roundup, Lerwill said that Cortez’s landscapes and Phil’s World bike park keeps him coming back to one of his favorite annual events.
“People ask me when I practice, and I tell them I usually practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night every weekend,” said Lerwill with a grin. “I’ve been riding motorcycles for 41 years, and I always have a lot of fun.”
Competitors turn in top-notch performancesWhile Carper’s smooth voice and Lerwill’s risky riding kept the audience entertained between rodeo events, the most exciting moments of the evening came courtesy the world-class cowboys and cowgirls that traveled to Cortez to compete.
Opening the evening with a bang in the bareback riding event, Tristan Hansen, of Dillon, Montana, spurred his way to a score of 77 points, while Delta, Colorado, resident Hunter Brasfield came in a close second with 74.
In the steer wrestling event, Los Alamos, New Mexico, resident Jake Trujillo set an arena record with a time of 3.5 seconds, while former world-record holder Clint Robinson set the pace in tie-down roping with a time of 9.1 seconds.
Tyler Turco and Mason Mardesich were the only two riders to make the eight-second horn in the saddle bronc event and each cowboy was awarded 77 points. Tait Gurney and Kelton Morse set the pace in the team roping event with a time of 6.1 seconds as only two teams successfully roped their steers.
Ivy Cornado, of Hudson, Colorado, set the pace in barrel racing with a time of 18.01 seconds, and none of the 13 bull riders stayed on for eight seconds as bulls brought to Cortez by the Honeycutt Rodeo Co. ruled the night.
In what turned out to be an exciting conclusion to the evening, bullfighters entered the Montezuma County Fairgrounds arena for the first time at the Ute Mountain Roundup to compete in what Carper deemed “the most dangerous event in the world.”
Clayton Harper led off the event and set the pace with an 80-point performance that included several near run-ins with an animal that weighed more than 2,000 pounds.
By the time the night was done, fans leaving the arena could be heard complimenting the evening’s events and making plans to return to the Montezuma County Fairgrounds for more.
The second night of the Ute Mountain Roundup begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, and the third night of the three-night event will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online at utemountainroundup.org or at the gate.