'Ready to rodeo'

Broncos start bucking Friday

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It's hard for John Shipley to sleep these days.

There is simply too much left to do.

"I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat," Shipley said. "There are so many details to finish and there is so much work to do at the last minute that it's overwhelming."

So with two days left to go, the president of the rodeo board is preoccupied with hanging signs, checking lights and making sure the sound system is working properly. He says there are also a couple million of other small details that must be completed before the chutes fly open at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

"I've been tossing and turning a lot lately," Shipley said. "But if I don't think of it, then nobody else is going to think of it either."

The sense of restlessness, however, seems to be overshadowed by Shipley's love for rodeo, which pumps through his blood and touches his heart.

After more than 20 years of working the local series, the cowboy knows the details will fall into place and that by the time opening night rolls around, Steamboat will put on one of the best shows anywhere in the country.

"We are ready to rodeo," stock contractor Donna Vold Larsen said Tuesday.

Vold Larsen and The Broken Arrow Rodeo Co. will bring more that 30 bulls and a good blend of rank bucking horses to Steamboat this summer.

Vold Larsen said the opening weekend will feature 21 bulls that are coming off of the College National Finals earlier this month. Shipley said only two of those bulls were ridden at the college finals.

Among this year's big stars will be Johnny on the Spot, Palo Verde and Copy Rite. Vold Larsen said they are all strong bulls that have learned a few tricks while grabbing some airtime at Professional Bull Riders Association events across the country.

But here in Steamboat no bull is as famous, or as popular, as Panda.

"They would run me out of town if I didn't bring Panda back to buck," Vold Larsen said.

Panda has built a reputation by dumping young cowboys onto the arena's dust-covered arena floor. Born and raised on the Urie Ranch in Steamboat, Panda is the benchmark by which Vold Larsen measures other bulls.

After a winter filled with travel, Vold Larsen said Panda, and the other bulls, will be happy to be back in Steamboat.

"It's like a working vacation for them," Vold Larsen said. "One of the hardest things on these animals is traveling from place to place.

"They seem to be a lot happier when they can stay in one place."

For the next 10 weeks, the animals and Vold Larsen will make the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena home.

They are hoping to have a couple of thousand invited guests this weekend when the series opens for the summer.

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