Steamboat Springs They came through the main gates of the Romick Rodeo Arena Friday night wearing cowboy boots, tennis shoes and even flip-flops.
But by the time rodeo announcer John Shipley had read a glowing tribute to the "Red, White and Blue," using the words of cowboy poet Baxter Black, these fans, who came from all walks of life, were ready to cheer on the first session of what many consider to be one of America's finest sporting traditions bull riding.
The chutes officially flew open on the 2001 summer rodeo season in Steamboat Springs at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
"I love it when a plan comes together," Shipley said.
For Craig cowboy Bliss Mayhan this year's rodeo series is a chance to practice in a sport he has loved for all his life without giving up his job. Mayhan first jumped on the back of a bull at age 5, but last night he was looking to cash in during the bareback riding event at the ripe old age of 35.
"I've got a full-time job, so I don't have the time to travel like I used to," the rodeo veteran said. "I went to CaCity back in May and finished third. I also went to Elizabeth, but that wasn't as good."
Mayhan plans on spending his summer right here in Steamboat Springs hoping to make a run at a bareback title. The former bull rider gave that sport up just two years ago and has now turned his attention to the broncos.
"When I was younger, I would do all three events," Mayhan said. "But it's been a while since I did that."
In fact, the rough stock cowboy competed in the bulls, bareback and saddle bronc events from 1987-1993, before he decided to focus on bull riding.
"I had some high goals, but I could never put a full season together," he said. "I was either hurt or broke. Sometimes I was hurt and broke."
Two year's ago Mayhan jumped on the back of a National Finals bull at a rodeo in Hayden and took his last ride in that event.
"I had a pretty bad wreck. They wouldn't let me get on my horse the next day," Mayhan said. "That's when I decided to give up the bulls."
But he wasn't ready to give up rodeo all together. Later that year he jumped on the back of a bareback and did pretty well at another rodeo. Once again, he was hooked on the adrenalin rush that rodeo provides.
"I probably would have been better off if that horse had buried my head in the dirt," Mayhan said. "Then maybe I would have given it up."
After more than 30 years of chasing the rodeo road, however, Mayhan isn't expecting to get rich in rodeo. Still, he keeps coming back for another year and another rodeo.
"I don't know why," Mayhan said. "It's something that I've always loved. I like the Steamboat series because I can stay close to home," Mayhan said.
He said he would like to make it to the Mountain States Finals this season but he isn't holding his breath at this time.
He knows that nothing is for sure in the sport of rodeo.
On Friday, things didn't go Mayhan's way. He managed to score a 63 on the back of a rank horse named S10 Cody Bill. However, it wasn't enough to place him in the money.
"I just go out and try to do my best," Mayhan said. "I leave the glory to God. He's the one who really deserves it."
The second performance of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series will take place at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Romick Rodeo Arena located on Howelsen Parkway. Admission at the gate is $10 for adults but tickets can be purchased in advance at nine locations around Steamboat Springs at a reduced price.
The series will run every Saturday and Sunday night for 10 weeks this summer. There will also be special performances the week of July Fourth.