Traditionally, the Routt County Fair was a chance for local cowboys to show off in a real rodeo skills honed doing real ranch work.
But as the number of agricultural producers decreased, along with the number of cowboys needed on the ranch, the demand for those skills went down. And the fair rodeo changed right along with it.
The popularity of rodeo as a spectator sport has grown over the years and so too have the purses. That's allowed cowboys to compete in rodeos full time. Because of that, fair rodeos now are often stops on a professional circuit and not places where locals compete.
That's true in Routt County. Steamboat hosts a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association series that winds up its season right around fair time. In Hayden, a professional rodeo is now part of the county fair. Sometimes local riders compete, but usually it's only one or two.
The change to a professional rodeo at the fair wasn't necessarily bad. Before, spectators had no guarantee they would see all the events, because sometimes there weren't enough competitors to, say, hold a steer wrestling competition. In pro rodeos, however, the crowd is assured of seeing a whole rodeo.
But still, there's something about watching working cowboys from area ranchers give it a go.
That's why the "ranch rodeo" was started five years ago. And this year, organizers are making a serious push to get more involvement from residents.
"We're trying to get back local competitors so that people from the area know someone from the community in the rodeo," said Hayden-area ranch woman Judy Green.
The ranch rodeo is a chance for families, friends and businesses in the community to enter a team and compete in a rodeo.
"It's a great event for people to get involved in," said Jean Morrow, who's helping organize the fair through the Routt County Extension Office.
Teams of amateur riders can test their skills in a relay race, a barrel race, team sorting and the cowboy luge. This year, for the first time, there is an invitational match saddle bronc riding competition.
Five guys, all from the Yampa Valley, will compete in the event. Wes Hertzog, Shawn Buckley, Mark Dickinson, Brett Brooks and Marty Forester were invited to ride.
"All the riders, at one point in time, competed in the pro rodeo levels," Green said.
The teams competing at the ranch rodeo get to draw one of the bronc riders to ride for their team. Points the cowboys earn riding the broncos will be earned for their team.
To get the public involved, there also will be a calcutta right before the rodeo starts. People can place a cash bid on one of the five riders. The bidders who pick the cowboy who wins the saddle bronc competition will get the calcutta pot.
Brett Brooks, who is competing at the ranch rodeo, pushed with the idea of the adding the saddle bronc to the rodeo. "It really kind of came from Bobby Robinson, who's a bit and spur maker," Brooks said. "He wanted to build a set of spurs for memorial."
Brooks thought it would be a good idea to have a match saddle bronc competition, with the winner getting the spurs.
Robinson, 90, a metal worker from Hayden, won't make any more spurs after he's finished with the ranch rodeo prize, Green said.