Reacting to the rodeo

First-timers and longtime rodeo fans take in Saturday event

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"Cowboy Up" became the craze last season when the Boston Red Sox adopted it as their postseason slogan. Frankly, the thought of Major League Baseball players relating to cowboys makes some roughstock riders laugh.

But rodeos and their participants are becoming more popular from coast to coast. And the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, which wrapped up its opening weekend Saturday night at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, is the perfect place for those unfamiliar with the sport to become better acquainted.

Take Kristine Johnson, for example. She recently moved to Steamboat Springs from Boston. On a Saturday night in the city, she would be in fancy clothes at a club. In Steamboat, she wore a borrowed cowboy hat and a new pair of jeans and soaked in the atmosphere.

"(My friends) would laugh hysterically and make fun of me if they knew I was here," Johnson said before the start of Saturday's rodeo.

Saturday, after watching more than a dozen cowboys take dives off bucking broncs and bulls, she was one Boston Red Sox fan who had a better understanding of what the phrase "Cowboy Up" truly meant.

Lamar's Justin Decker, who turned in a top score of 71 to win the saddle bronc riding, said it is flattering that people want to compare themselves to cowboys. Decker, 23, couldn't imagine being anything else. Last year, he competed in the Steamboat Springs rodeo series and rode U Turn, the same saddle bronc he rode Saturday night. Decker didn't remember what he scored last year, but he will remember this season's 71-point ride on the horse.

"I've never won a whole entire rodeo before, so this is exciting," he said. "I was almost bucked off in the middle of the ride."

A majority of the roughstock riders in town Saturday weren't so successful. Broken Arrow Rodeo Company and its contractor, Dona Vold Larsen, have a line-up of stock in the chutes this year that will delight the crowds and cowboys.

Tom Cardwell, 23, of Alcova, Wyo., took top honors in the bareback competition after scoring 75 points on See Ya. It was the high school and collegiate cowboy's first time in Steamboat because this is the first season he has held his permit to ride.

"It's physically intense," Cardwell said of bareback riding. "It takes a lot out of you."

Cardwell said places such as Steamboat, a popular vacation destination, are great for cowboys to come to because of the support they receive from the crowd, no matter the points scored.

Declan and Marian Magrane were sitting outside the rodeo arena early Saturday evening enjoying a barbecue dinner before the night's events.

"We've never been to a rodeo before," Marian said. "We saw a story from Friday and decided to come."

Saturday, those who attended were not disappointed.

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series continues throughout the summer at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The rodeo grounds are near Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat. Fans also can enjoy music from Alpine Posse and a barbecue dinner at 6 p.m. to get the evening started.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboapilot.com

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