Ranch Rodeo puts down-home skills in spotlight

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— Alicia Samuelson stepped gingerly out of the rodeo arena at the Routt County Fairgrounds Friday night and pointed to both of her legs, just above the knees.

"I think I've got a couple of bruises," Samuelson said.

Today 8 a.m. Exhibit Hall opens 10 a.m. Fair Parade, Hayden 10-10:45 Open Beef Show check-in 11 a.m. Tri-State Equipment Tractor Safety Obstacle Course 11 a.m. Open Beef and Dairy Show 1-3 p.m. Washing Wool and Felting demonstration 1 p.m. PRCA Rodeo* Mutton Bustin' and Calf Riding. After Rodeo: slack, Mixed Team Roping 3-5 p.m. Spinning demonstration 4-6 p.m. Horse Races 4:-6 p.m. 4-H Pre-Sale Barbecue* 5:30-6:30 4-H Entertainment 6 p.m. Junior Livestock Sale 8:30 p.m. -1 a.m. Routt County Fair Hoe Down Sunday 8 a.m. Sunday worship services, grandstands 9-11 a.m. Team Penning 9 a.m. Pretty Baby Contest, Exhibit Hall 10 a.m. Bogg's Hardware Commissioners Cookie Basket Contest, The Homesteader Mayors Brownie Contest, Pilot Office Supply Coloring Contest Judging 11 a.m. Blind Man's Tractor Contest, RCCW Ranch Women's Contest (follows Blind Man's Tractor contest) 12-2 p.m. 4-H/FFA premium pay-out livestock office window 12:45 p.m. Crowning of new Fair Royalty & Past Fair queen Grand Entry 1 p.m. PRCA Rodeo* Mutton Bustin'/Calf Riding (during the rodeo), Catch A Bunny/Catch A Calf/Greased Pig Contests following the rodeo 3-6 p.m. Open Class premium pay-out, Exhibit Hall

It's no wonder Samuelson had a couple of black and blue marks; she had just taken part in the "cowboy luge," one of a half-dozen events that make the fair's annual Ranch Rodeo.

Samuelson is a former substitute teacher in the south Routt school district, and a 10-year Routt County 4-H leader. She is also the tack-buyer for Soda Creek Mercantile in Steamboat Springs.

A lean woman of medium height, she had just allowed a rider astride a muscular quarter horse to drag her across the rodeo arena at a full gallop while she lay prone on a garbage can lid.

"I grew up rodeoing," she explained perfunctorily.

And how does one succeed in the cowboy luge?

"Just hang on, and don't get dirt in your mouth," she advised.

Samuelson was one of five, five-member teams in Friday night's event. The Ranch Rodeo tested the skills of the teams, often made up of extended families, in a series of events that included a relay race, team roping and paint branding, barrel racing and even goat milking. Contestants ranged in age from 9 right up to cowboys in their 60s.

Don Moraites was proud that his Two Socks Ranch and Arena team was comprised of three men and three women.

"This is probably the best entertainment you can find," Moraites said. "This is a family, let's have a ball."

Despite their enthusiasm, the Two Socks cowboys and cowgirls couldn't keep up with the Mack family team from Craig. The Macks blazed through the relay race, swapping riders and saddles midway through the sprint, in just 27 seconds. Two Socks galloped home in 54 seconds.

Bill Mack pointed out that his team was included three of his daughters and grand-daughter Whitney. She represents the fifth generation of Mack family members on the first centennial farm in Moffat County. Their place on Mack Lane where else was founded in in 1876.

The Macks won the ranch rodeo at Grand Olde West Days early in the summer. But Bill Mack scoffs at the notion they might actually train for the events.

"No, we don't practice," Bill said. "We moved cattle this morning."

Kortney Venzke had to dig in her heels and hang onto a wild steer that wanted no part of the team branding competition. Venzke didn't let go of the rope, and teammate Clay Schafer, 9, of rural Hayden slapped a painless white brand on the flank of the steer.

Venzke, who team ropes Tuesdays and Thursday at the arena, was taking part in her second ranch rodeo.

"It's pretty cool," she said. "It's just getting out there and competing and working with a team."

Special honorees Friday night were Jerry and Judy Green, who have invested many hours in establishing the Ranch Rodeo at the fair. The Greens, who also live on a centennial ranch on the edge of the Beaver Flat Tops south of Hayden, were presented with special jackets by their teammates.

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