Steamboat Springs Next week thousands of visitors to Steamboat Springs will get a taste of this town's longstanding Western lifestyle when the Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series opens for the summer.
Forget the fact most of those visitors will have no idea what is happening on the arena floor, the local professional rodeo series is a chance for the sport of rodeo to step into the spotlight every summer.
As a child growing up in Denver, my exposure to the sport of rodeo was limited very limited. However, that's to be expected in an area where the only horses for miles were found under the hood of my parents car.
But I can still remember the time my dad loaded us into that car, drove an hour-plus to Greeley and took us to the Greeley Independence Stampede rodeo. We all returned with new cowboy hats, but as much as I hate to admit it, the professional athletes I continued to look up to were still baseball, basketball and football players.
Here in Steamboat, horses can be found just about everywhere and most local children here are exposed to the sport of rodeo at a very early age.
Well, most children, that is. My wife, who was born and raised here in Steamboat, still cheers for the calves in the calf-roping event. She also roots for the steers in the team roping events and I'm pretty sure she tends to favor the bulls and horses in the rough stock events.
But she is an exception.
For most people, rodeo provides an entertaining event on a weekly basis and also helps keep Steamboat's ranching tradition alive and well in this part of the Colorado Rockies.
The truth is that for most visitors, the rodeo may be their only real taste of the Old West. It is their chance to feel like a cowboy for a few hours even if the long-sleeved shirt on their back, the Stetson on their head and those brand new boots were recently purchased at one of our local western stores.
In most cases, the fans who fill the stands will return to the baseball fields the next day and to their normal lives within a week. The shirt, hat and boots will end up in the closet when they get back home to the city.
Most of them still will not understand the barrier rule, they may not grasp why a bareback rider has to mark the horse or why they call it steer wrestling. But the folks who run the local rodeo series hope they all go home with a new appreciation for one of America's oldest sports even if the boots end up back in the closet.