Steamboat Springs At times, the 30 years John Shipley has invested in the local rodeo weigh down his voice.
The headaches that come with the event — now set to begin another 10-week, 21-performance season in downtown Steamboat Springs — seem to wear him down. There are the constant efforts to keep the contestant sheet stacked and the grandstands filled with wide-eyed fans, the endless details and, of course, the two or three hours he spends every summer night in the announcer's booth, where he serves as the voice of the rodeo, as memorable a takeaway for visiting spectators as any horse or cowboy.
So, in all that, is there ever a question of stepping down, of enjoying something as simple as a Friday night off or even a summer vacation?
That’s not a question Shipley answers with a “yes” or a “no,” but it’s also not something he’s ambivalent about.
“It’s important this tradition continues,” he said Sunday, looking ahead to the rodeo season, which begins with 7:30 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday. “Steamboat Springs was a ranching town before it was a ski town, and it’s important we remember that heritage and the fact that we are still a ranching town.
“This is a way I can contribute to the community; it’s tradition and heritage."
That tradition and heritage is set for another long summer stay in Steamboat.
The rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer and at 6:30 p.m. July 4.
As usual, entertainment acts are booked throughout the season, and organizers are hoping that can combine with the normal thrills in the arena to keep the stands full.
Part of that process is keeping a healthy number of rough stock riders. The rodeo again this year will have a permit bull riding classification, which last year helped keep bull riders coming through the season, even when the regional rodeo schedule gets full in July and August.
Permit bull riding gives younger riders the chance to compete against one other and earn money and points toward a PRCA card.
The purse for the bull riding also will be sweetened later in the season.
“That’s really important. The crowds love rough stock events,” the rodeo’s Laura Sankey said. “You come to the rodeo and you want to see those bucking horses and bulls because it’s super dangerous and it's really an adrenaline rush.”
This season also will feature the debut of a special saddle bronc riding event, the Travis Darling Round, named in honor of the local saddle bronc cowboy and former season-long saddle bronc champ who died in an October car crash in Texas. The winner will take a cash prize as well as a special buckle.
Rodeo organizers will be busy this week preparing for the season opener, and they’ll be busy through the summer, putting Steamboat’s Western tradition on show all season long.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com