Chutes open, ropes fly

Rodeo fun begins in Steamboat

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The chaotic hustle and bustle behind the chutes didn't seem to bother veteran bull rider Charles Schwartz on Friday night as he prepared for his ride.

For the past eight years, the Bennett cowboy has learned to relax in those hectic moments before the chutes fly open and the rodeo begins. He jokes with his friends, changes into his riding clothes and tries to find the mental fortitude it takes to climb on the back of a 2,000 pound animal.

Opening night in Steamboat Springs is no different.

"It's pretty much like any other day at the office," Schwartz said. "This is the way we live life."

That lifestyle returned to Steamboat on Friday night in the form of bull, bareback, and saddle bronc riding. There was also a healthy portion of team roping, tie-down roping (formerly known as the sport of calf roping) and steer wrestling.

"I'm happy to be back in Steamboat," Schwartz said. "I've been coming here since 1995. This is a great rodeo."

Schwartz said he is drawn to the mountains every summer by the chance of winning a belt buckle from the Steamboat series and a chance to climb on the back of one of the Broken Arrow Rodeo Company's bulls.

"They (Bill Larsen and Dona Vold Larsen) have the best stock in the region," Schwartz said. "Whenever I come to Steamboat I know I'm going to be getting on the back of a good bull. I know that Bill and Dona are taking care of their animals."

Schwartz said it is also nice to come to a tourist town such as Steamboat where the Western heritage is embraced and promoted.

"I think the spectators who come out to watch this rodeo want to get a taste of that tradition," Schwartz said. "They think our lifestyle represents the last of the old west."

Schwartz's friend Tracy Lombardi of Westminster also was happy to be back in Steamboat.

"Sure I want to win this series," Lombardi said in the chutes just moments before his ride. "Every cowboy here wants to win this series and take home a belt buckle."

Both cowboys plan on making Steamboat Springs a regular stop this summer as they try to earn enough money for an invitation to the Mountain States' Circuit finals.

"My goal this season is to win that belt buckle, qualify for the Mountain States' finals and then win that," Schwartz said. "It doesn't matter if I win $100 or $1,000, it's all going to that same goal."

Schwartz left for Evergreen after Friday's performance. Tomorrow night he will ride a different bull at another rodeo. But the Steamboat series will continue with another round of bull riders ushering in the second show of the season at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The series will run 10 weeks this summer.

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