Four hundred hooves will clip-clop down Lincoln Avenue on Monday morning as almost 100 cows trek to the rodeo arena for the Ranch Rodeo.
The cattle drive is part of Steamboat Springs' 101st Cowboy Roundup Days, which begin Friday and run until Monday. The city will celebrate the Fourth of July with rodeos, art shows and music, as well as food, fireworks and a parade.
"Technically, roundups refer to gathering together cattle, but with the Cowboy Roundup, we're trying to get all the cowboys to come to Steamboat to celebrate the Fourth of July and our Western heritage," said Riley Polumbus, spokeswoman for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.
The festivities kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday with a professional rodeo at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. Subsequent performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
"The July Fourth rodeo is usually the biggest rodeo of the year," Polumbus said.
Also on Friday night, Strings in the Mountain presents a "Rhapsody in Blue."
The music continues Saturday and Sunday night, along with the High Country Garden Tour on Saturday morning.
Art on the Mountain runs Saturday and Sunday. At the festival, artisans will display their work at the base of the gondola. The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. will have a climbing wall, a bungee-chord trampoline and a miniature golf course set up near Art on the Mountain.
The holiday starts with a pancake breakfast beginning at 6 a.m. Sunday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. It costs $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and children.
"It's a great way to get the true flavor of a small town because it's like a community picnic," Polumbus said.
After the pancakes, the Fourth of July parade marches at 10 a.m. down Lincoln Avenue. Groups such as the Steamboat Rugby Club and Blue Sky West have constructed floats.
The grand marshal of the parade is Cookie Lockhart, the only woman inducted into the National Auctioneers Association's Hall of Fame, Polumbus said.
"She's a longtime Steamboat personality. She's broken the mold in the auctioneering world and represents the pioneering West," she said.
The parade ends in a block party with a barbecue, root beer floats and brass music.
Finally, a herd of hooves rumbles down Lincoln Avenue on Monday morning for the cattle drive.
The Steamboat cattle drive originated in the early 1900s when ranchers would bring their cattle to the train station to be transported. About 1912, Steamboat Springs was the largest cattle shipping station in the country, Polumbus said.
Several thousand people came to watch the cattle drive last year, she said.
"It's louder than you think it would be. When they're out in the pasture grazing, they don't make that much noise, but on the street, they moo like crazy," she said.
Nevertheless, organizers won't close Lincoln Avenue for the drive. Instead, cars simply will navigate around whatever block the cows are on.
The Ranch Rodeo begins at noon and is free to spectators. In the rodeo, ranchers compete in ranch-inspired activities such as doctoring injured cattle, catching and milking wild cows that have never been milked before and branding, though paint substitutes for irons in the competition.
In the wild-cow milking contest, ranchers have to rope the cow, hold it, release the rope and then milk the cow, which can be a challenging task.
"You've got three people holding this 1,500-pound creature while you're trying to milk it. That's not easy," organizer Bill Montag said.
About 15 teams composed of ranchers have registered for the rodeo, he said.
"The folks who saw it last year were thrilled. It doesn't have all the glamour of the pro rodeo, but it gives you a flavor of what happens on a ranch," Polumbus said.