A cowboy's Christmas

July 4 rodeos keep cowboys chasing big payouts

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For the first time in six years, Steamboat Springs bull rider Danny Jendral will spend his Fourth of July close to home.

In the past, Jendral has sacrificed his holidays to chase the cowboy lifestyle. While most people see the Fourth of July as a chance to sit back and relax at home, for cowboys, the holiday weekend marks a chance to make enough money to last an entire season. For that reason, it often is referred to as "Cowboy Christmas."

But this cowboy holiday is all about work. Most competitors spend it away from their families, driving from rodeo to rodeo in search of the big payday.

"It's just nuts," Jendral said. "If you are going hard, it's easy to go to two rodeo performances a day."

There will be 58 PRCA-sanctioned rodeos between June 23 and July 5, stretching across the continent from Davie, Fla., to Williams Lake, British Columbia.

When he was going hard, Jendral would have been among the cowboys driving from town to town in a race to make as much money as possible. However, this year he's decided to stay close to home, ride in the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series and spend some time with his family and friends.

"It can be brutal," Jendral said. "I mean, I love to ride, but as you get older other priorities become more important."

Luckily for Jendral, there will be plenty of rodeo action in his own back yard this year. The Steamboat Springs Rodeo will host three performances next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Jendral plans to ride in one of them.

Brent Romick, the chairman of the rodeo series, expects to have plenty of contestants for the three performances

He said Steamboat's reputation and the timing of the evening performance on the Fourth of July makes Steamboat an inviting prospect for most cowboys.

Ann Bleiker, who works with the PRCA's media department, said the Fourth of July run could make or break a cowboy's season. A couple of years ago, she said, one cowboy pocketed $30,000 in a week. But if they aren't winning, cowboys can spend a great deal of money with little return.

Because of this, Bleiker said fewer cowboys are spending their time and money running from rodeo to rodeo in search of money and glory.

"I think a lot of cowboys these days pick and choose the rodeos they go to," Bleiker said.

She said they try to find the rodeos they have a chance of winning and that offer the most money for their effort.

But despite the trend, the Fourth of July remains one of the most lucrative periods of rodeo in the country and in Colorado. This week, cowboys hit the road hoping to jump-start their seasons.

"It's planes, trains and automobiles," said Leslie King, director of communications at the PRCA. "Every cowboy wants the same thing -- to make the most amount of money in the shortest period of time."

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboat pilot.com

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