Steamboat Springs It's opening night at Brent Romick Arena, and two young sheep from Pete Wille's ranch have no idea what's in store for them during the Pee Wee Ram Scramble.
"We just pulled them out of the herd this week," Charnel Wille said. "This will be their first rodeo."
But it's not the first rodeo for John Shipley and a group of other rodeo organizers who are meeting in the announcers stand just a few feet above where the unsuspecting rams have been corralled.
"This is as close to a production meeting as we get," Shipley said with a smile. "And we don't do this that often."
But tonight, the longtime rodeo announcer and president of the board of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series wants to go over the details one last time in an effort to make opening night as smooth as possible.
"This is how we make things look like they run so easy," Shipley said.
The group includes Shipley's son Lane, who handles all the music for the rodeo. Brent Romick, chairman of the board, also is on hand along with Gerry Byrne of the Bad Company and a couple of other key players.
Shipley and some of the others have been working and planning for this night for the past 42 weeks. His goal in this meeting is to stress the important events of the opening rodeo to the people he will have to trust to take care of the last minute details.
Lane Shipley says his father rarely gets nervous before the start of the rodeo, and taking care of the details just come naturally after years of working in the business.
"It's the same every year," Lane Shipley said. "You have to figure out how to get 10 pounds of flour into a five-pound sack. He's not kidding. By 7:30, we will be ready to go."
And they were.
Brent Romick shares the Shipley's laid-back attitude in what many would consider some very stressful final minutes before the start of the first rodeo.
"I've been doing this for 27 years," Romick said. "The only thing that makes me nervous in a lack of preparing and that's never a problem with this group of people."
Outside of the announcer's booth, Jeff Nelson, rodeo grounds supervisor, was also busy taking care of the last-minute items before the performance was scheduled to start.
"Of course I get anxious," Nelson said. "But there is something about the atmosphere here in Steamboat, and I'm always confident that everything will get done in time."
Nelson, and his crew of 5 workers, has spent the past three weeks transforming the arena from a cross-country skiing venue into the rodeo arena.
Nelson says it's just a matter of knowing where everything is and getting it into the right place before the show begins. Once the first weekend is finished, the crew will be responsible for maintaining the facility for the remaining nine weeks.
"The rodeo is great, and we all take pride in making it happen here in Steamboat," Nelson said. "It's another year, and we are glad to get things rolling."
It's was unclear if Pete Wille's rams share that opinion after getting chased down by what seems like a million crazed children.
- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209
or e-mail email@example.com