In the days before Steamboat Springs had a rodeo arena, Routt County’s earliest cowboys often had to rope calves and “break” horses that were not keen on humans riding on their backs.
These early rodeo precursors most often took place on the ranches where the cowboys worked but also on the wide, accommodating Main Street of Steamboat Springs.
Tales from the Tread
Tales from the Tread columns publish the first and third Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today.
These activities understandably caused much consternation and terror among the locals just trying to pick up their weekly goods in town. Although complaints by locals led to the passing of a 1903 ordinance that prohibited riding horses faster than 10 mph or breaking animals on city streets, the spirit of the rodeo was here to stay.
Vintage photographs in the Tread of Pioneers Museum collection suggest that Steamboat Springs may have hosted its first organized rodeo as early as 1897.
Competitive rodeo was first mentioned in the Steamboat Pilot story, “The Hot Time Celebration” of 1898. Events included literary readings, bronc riding, bicycle and horse races, chasing a greased pig, climbing a greased pole, fireworks and a grand ball with an orchestra at city hall.
In September 1899, “Game Day” included many rodeo-style events: rough-riding, steer roping, pony racing and shooting contests.
The first of the forerunners of our current “Cowboys’ Roundup Days” or “Cowboys’ Roundup Rodeo” may have been held as early as 1904.
By the 1920s, rodeo in Steamboat Springs was a “popular affair” and the more “civilized” and contained rodeo events were held at the base of Emerald Mountain. The addition of horse racing was a huge draw. Bucking broncos such as Pin Ears, Satan, Carrie Nation, Canahejo and Pershing promised wild adventures for riders such as Tuffy Wren, Bill Corbett, Kid Vaughn, Edger Bobbitt others.
Rodeo in Steamboat Springs is a tradition that still is alive and well today. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctions weekly evening rodeos on summer weekends as well as an Independence Day rodeo.
Rodeo events — bull riding, bucking broncos, calf roping, barrel riding and more — continue to delight locals and tourists. Cowboy Roundup Days now is celebrated annually on July Fourth weekend.
“The 111th Cowboys’ Roundup Days promises to be the most entertaining Roundup Days in history,” said Brent Romick, arena director and chairman of the board of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. “The number and variety of the 2014 events showcase many aspects of our Western heritage and the diversity in activities will provide something for everyone. … The Roundup Days PRCA Pro Rodeo and WRCA Ranch Rodeos are the largest rodeos of their kind in Northwest Colorado.”
Romick added that the Bull Riding and Ranch Rodeo on Thursday will raise funds for the Rodeo Arena Improvement Fund and Wounded Warriors involved in this summer’s STARS (Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports) program. It is fitting that we honor the “soldiers who have served and sacrificed for the freedom we will all enjoy as we celebrate the birthday of this great nation.”
Cheri Daschle is a volunteer at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.