Rodeo chutes open for summer tonight

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To say Steamboat Springs saddle bronc rider Andy Kurtz has stepped up his travel schedule would be an understatement.

Last year, the young cowboy got his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit and competed in limited events in Colorado and Wyoming.

This year, Kurtz is an official card-carrying member of the PRCA and has taken advantage of the privilege.

"I was in Texas for two months," he said Thursday over his cell phone. "Two weeks ago, I was at rodeos in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. I'm heading to North Platte (Neb.) today. I'm coming from North Platte to Salt Lake City, and then to Steamboat."

By the time Kurtz arrives home to ride in the opening weekend of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series on Saturday, he will have competed in two nonadjacent states in less than a day.

But that won't stop the Steamboat cowboy, now 25, from hopping on a saddle bronc Saturday night.

"I'm a rookie," Kurtz said. "At times it's been frustrating because I still do have a lot to learn. I'm not as consistent as I want to be. I'm on the bubble of making enough to rodeo without having another job, but I can't complain at all. I get in a hurry. I just have to learn to be more patient."

Kurtz grew up on a ranch with horses and watching cowboys compete at the Steamboat rodeo. He didn't start competing until college, when he joined the California Polytechnic State University rodeo team.

"Once I got done with school, I concentrated on that," Kurtz said. "This year has been really good."

Kurtz plans to compete in Steamboat as often as he can. For one, he gets to sleep in his own bed. Secondly, downtown Steamboat provides a magnificent backdrop.

"The crowds in Steamboat are as good as basically any other rodeo," Kurtz said. "It's a hometown rodeo. It's absolutely beautiful."

This weekend, Frontier Rod-eo will be the stock contractor, a company Kurtz said is known for its bulls.

The 10-week Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series is sanctioned by the PRCA, so it brings in top stock and many of the Mountain Circuit's best cowboys, particularly the best up-and-comers.

Tonight's events begin with a barbecue dinner and music on the Boothill Bar & Grill stage at 6 p.m. The rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena near Howelsen Hill.

Throughout the summer, the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series runs Friday and Saturday nights, with two additional rodeos during the Fourth of July weekend, including The Cowboy Roundup Days Ranch Rodeo on July 3

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