Giddy up: The Snowmass Rodeo rides on, summer affair gets underway this week
Ranching roots run deep with longtime Western tradition
Ranching roots in the Roaring Fork Valley, including Snowmass Village, run deep. Today’s rodeo serves as a reminder of that Western heritage and is a key reason why Markey Butler moved to the area all those years ago.
“I love the rodeo,” says Butler, the former Snowmass Village mayor who is now 74 years old and on the board of directors for the Snowmass Rodeo. “I moved west out of Michigan for all the beautiful things that happen here in our valley. I volunteer for the music festival on Sundays, which I love. That’s one of the reasons I moved here. The second was skiing, and third was the rodeo always attracted me.”
The Snowmass Rodeo is in its 48th season this summer, and it kicks off Wednesday night at the rodeo grounds in Town Park. After the 2020 rodeos were canceled because of the pandemic, the 2021 summer saw the rodeo bounce back in a big way, bringing in upward of 2,200 people a night to witness the action. Butler says they’ll seek to cap the ticket sales to about 2,000 for each rodeo in 2022.
Held every Wednesday night from June 22 through Aug. 17 — with two shows scheduled for a special July 6 celebration — Butler sees the rodeo as the start of a lively week in Snowmass Village that leads visitors into the weekend events, including its free summer concert series on Thursday evenings.
“The marketing and tourism department in Snowmass does such a great job,” Butler says. “If you think about it, we want people to come for the weekend — the Friday, Saturday, Sunday events. A rodeo on Wednesday and concert on Thursday makes Snowmass a full-week journey. And people are doing that.”
The Snowmass Rodeo has all the proper fixings for true cowboys and cowgirls, with traditional events, such as bareback riding, team roping, saddle bronc riding, ribbon roping, barrel racing and bull riding. There are also activities for kids, from the calf scramble to mutton bustin’ — not to mention a petting zoo and mechanical bull rides.
And you can’t miss out on the Cowboy Dinner, which offers all the proper rodeo delicacies — straight off the barbecue, of course.
“It’s fun to walk through the bar area and see who all is there and head over to the food tent and get a good barbecue sandwich and barbecue chicken,” Butler says.
Another way to get involved with the rodeo is to volunteer — and one of the incentives is a free sandwich. Butler, who has been a rodeo volunteer for nearly two decades, says they need about seven volunteers at each rodeo. Volunteers help with many duties, chief among them are parking detail and working as a greeter.
“I call us the ‘smiley girls,’ but I do have men that volunteer,” Butler says. “We take the tickets and welcome the kids and all that wonderful stuff.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in the Summer in Aspen and Snowmass magazine on newsstands now.