Bedells to serve as grand marshals for 4th of July parade in Steamboat |

Bedells to serve as grand marshals for 4th of July parade in Steamboat

Jack Weinstein

Clark resident John Sullivan lets a calf out of the gate for Orval "Junior" Bedell, right, and his son Travis during roping practice Wednesday in North Routt County. Orval Bedell's other son, Chad, will join them in serving as grand marshals for today's Fourth of July parade.
Matt Stensland

Orval "Junior" Bedell lets out a laugh during roping practice Wednesday in North Routt County.Matt Stensland

— Orval "Junior" Bedell has been a cowboy all his life.

He started shoeing horses when he was 9 years old. At 10, he caught a bus to Vernal, Utah, to herd sheep back to North Routt County. It took two months.

More than 60 years later, he hasn't stopped being a cowboy. And his sons, Chad and Travis, followed in his footsteps.

Junior, Chad and Travis Bedell, whose family represents more than a century of the Yampa Valley's Western heritage, will serve as grand marshals for today's Fourth of July parade. They'll ride together, leading the 64 floats, fire trucks and others, on horseback through downtown Steamboat Springs.

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The parade, part of Steamboat's 107th annual Cowboys' Roundup Days and Fourth of July festivities, will head east on Lincoln Avenue starting at 10 a.m. today from 11th to Fifth streets.

Mountain Valley Bank President Dean Vogelaar, who worked with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to organize the festivities, said they wanted to find a grand marshal who epitomized this year's parade theme.

Vogelaar said the Fourth of July parade grand marshal historically has represented the community's skiing or Western heritage — something that has deep roots in Steamboat and Routt County.

He said the Bedells jumped out. Others agreed.

"I think they're perfect for it," said Routt County Ext­ension Agent CJ Mucklow, who met the Bedells in 1979 as an 18-year-old working on

the neighboring McLaugh­lin ranch. "If you want to talk about the real deal, real cowboys in Routt County, you're looking at three of them."

Junior, 70, learned the ranching business from his father, Orval, whose parents bought a ranch near Hahn's Peak in 1918. His mother Willet's family, the Gillilands, homesteaded that area with the Crawford family in 1890.

Later, Junior's family moved to a ranch in Clark. He and his wife, Sharon, raised Chad and Travis. They ranched in the summers in Clark and in the winters in Jensen, Utah.

Chad, 44, a former world champion steer wrestler, is the ranch manager at Maribou Ranch. Travis, 40, shoes horses, builds fences and works in construction. Junior still outfits for Steamboat Lake Outfitters, which he helped found in the 1990s. All three are avid bow hunters.

When asked why so many consider them to be real cowboys, Junior said, "We can do it all." From raising cattle and shearing sheep to making their own saddles, there's little the Bedells haven't done.

"These are people who are true, honest pioneers," said Jo Semotan, who grew up with Junior and has lived in North Routt her entire life.

Chad and Travis said they have fond memories of growing up in Clark with their father, which Travis said was "always fun, always an adventure." Junior would take them on mountain lion hunting trips. Travis said they spent a lot of time outside, playing games such as tag on horseback. As children, Chad said, they would go to the Clark Store as often as they could to buy candy.

Both spent time away from the county. Chad attended Utah State, where he earned a degree in agriculture economics, and competed on the pro rodeo circuit. Travis lived in Fort Collins, Fort Lupton and Phoenix. But they both said they always came home.

"North Routt here's been fortunate," Chad said. "Ranches have changed hands. There are new owners, but we haven't seen the development as in other parts of the county. It's still a special place."

On Friday afternoon at the Clark Store, just about everyone who stopped by knew the Bedells.

"We get to see them often," said Chris King, who has worked at the store for more than 10 years. "To tell you the truth, to know North Routt is to know at least two Bedells. I'm fortunate enough to know four generations."

After the parade, which is expected to last about two hours, the Tread of Pioneers Museum will host its annual Pioneer Day Block Party. The block party will feature a free community concert with Steamboat Swings, free admission to the museum, Routt Beer Floats and free hotdogs. There also will be children's activities.

For today's parade, Lincoln Avenue will be closed from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Fifth to 11th streets.

Steamboat Chamber Exec­utive Vice Presi­­dent Sandy Evans Hall estimated that 5,000 to 6,000 people would line Lincoln Avenue to celebrate the nation's independence today in Steamboat.

She said this year's parade theme was intended to honor local cowboys. The Bedells certainly fit the bill.

"It's a privilege to represent Routt County," Travis said. "There's been a lot of other families honored before us. We feel graced to be among them."

Street closures

Lincoln Avenue will be closed from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Fifth to 11th streets for the Fourth of July parade.