Steamboat Springs After four years of directing the Routt County Gymkhana Club, founder Bonny McGeary will step away this summer well, maybe not totally.
She said she would return to the arena as a competitor when the opportunity to ride presents itself this summer.
"You know I've run it for the last four years and it's really a lot of work," McGeary said. "I'm glad it's going to keep running and I am looking forward to riding in it this summer when I'm in town."
Hopefully, she will be in town tonight when the annual summer series kicks off at the Romick Rodeo Arena. Registration opens at 5:30 p.m. with competition starting at 6:30 p.m.
McGeary was one of the first locals to get the club rolling four summers ago when the rodeo announced that it would no longer offer a junior barrel-racing event during its weekend performances.
This year, as the club enters its fifth year, locals Jon and Wanda Hawes will step in to keep things moving forward.
The club offers local peewees (8 and under), juniors (9-13), intermediates (14-17), young adults (18-29) and adults (30 and up) the chance to barrel race, pole bend and stake race on a weekly basis.
Jon Hawes said the divisions were expanded this year so parents and children could come out and ride without worrying that they might have to compete against each other.
"We want to create a fun atmosphere for all of the riders who come out to ride," Hawes said. "Having a division that was 18 and up just created too many weird situations."
He said he also wants the club to appeal to riders of all ages and abilities whether they came to the arena for serious competition or if they just wanted to walk their horse around the barrels. To do this the club has also structured its awards to appeal to both groups.
The Hawes' daughter has competed in the club's summer events for the past three years and Hawes knows firsthand what it means to the youth of Steamboat Springs.
"I'm in this for extremely selfish reasons," Hawes said. "I've seen the joy it has brought to our family and it is a lot of fun. I wanted to make sure that it would keep going."
Hawes also sees the club as a vehicle for carrying on the longtime Routt County tradition of rodeo.
"Rodeo has always been a part of Routt County," Hawes said. "Our club supports western riding events that showcase our local traditions."
The Gymkhana Club will meet 10 times this summer on Thursday evenings with the exception of the Fourth of July. There is a $25 fee to join the club and events cost members $5 per event. Peewee events cost members $3 per event.
Non-members can stop by the rodeo grounds and compete for $8 per event.
This year the club has lined up 11 sponsors to help cover the majority of the insurance and arena fees. Hawes said this would allow the entry fees to be used for prize money and end-of- season awards. The club pays back 75 percent of the entry fees each night in prizes. The rest of the money is held back for the year-end prizes, which are given to members who have taken part in at least seven of the 10 events.
There is also a summer-long belt buckle series in the junior, intermediate, young adults and adult divisions. The winner will take home the grand champion belt buckle and the runner-up will be awarded the champion buckle at the end of the year.
The peewee riders will compete for ribbons with honors going to the first-, second- and third-place riders. One other rider each night will be awarded the honorable mention ribbon.
Riders interested in taking part in the series should show up at the Romick arena at 5:30 p.m. today to sign up for the club and take part in the first competition.