Venture behind the bucking chutes on opening night at Romick rodeo arena and you will discover a world that reminds you of hanging out with your friends at a saloon Saturday night or going to church with them Sunday morning.
Hidden behind the nervous chit chat of a half dozen laughing cowboys, Dave Hoffman kneels in prayer, a few feet away Cody Fox gets an earful from a buddy who's excited that he's drawn a top bucking horse for tonight's rodeo.
"He's going to win; you can bet on it," Hoffman says as he heads to get his equipment ready for his ride.
Fox grins, knowing that with a good ride he could collect a paycheck during the first week of the rodeo in Steamboat Springs.
While the scene is nothing new for the riders who have been competing for months now, Friday night marked the return of the rodeo to Steamboat for the summer.
In fact, the entire state heats up this weekend as the rodeo shifts into high gear and cowboys hit the road in search of belt buckles and paychecks.
"I like to roll into town a couple of hours early if I can," Fox said. "It makes me nervous to show up late and to have to hurry -- and I'm already nervous enough when I'm getting ready to ride." On this night it was business as usual for as the Calhan cowboy rode Saddle Mountain Dip to the top of the results with a 69. But this wasn't your typical opening night at the Steamboat Springs rodeo thanks to a thrilling moment in the first session of bull riding.
Stock contractor Dona Vold Larsen said it was the first time she could remember a cowboy riding Smokeless Panda this early in the season..
Despite the legendary bull's twisting, jumping and spinning performance, Greeley's Ryan Greenlee held on for a wild ride that shocked everyone in the arena. His effort netted him 90 points and a solid shot of winning the first rodeo of the season. The winner will be crowned after tonight's performance.
"We had a bunch of great bull riders in here tonight, and I'm do proud of that boy," Larsen said. 'I couldn't be happier for him."
Greenlee said he was thrilled to have drawn Panda and was just as surprised to have ridden the bull.
"Panda is the type of bull you hope to draw and want to ride," Greenlee said. "That's why we do it."
The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo series will continue tonight with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. for a barbeque and live entertainment.
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