Mordkin in the rodeo saddle in Snowmass |

Mordkin in the rodeo saddle in Snowmass

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

When Bill Burwell produced the Snowmass Village summer rodeo, he’d often ride into the arena on a lively palomino and wave to the crowd.

Arnie Mordkin swears he won’t do that.

Mordkin, a Snowmass Village town councilman, is now producing the long-running rodeo. And while he’s a huge rodeo fan, he plans on staying a little lower in the saddle.

“I’m a coordinator, I am chairing the committee that will continue the operation of the rodeo,” Mordkin said. “You are not going to find me riding out there on a white horse.”

Mordkin recently volunteered to chair the town’s new rodeo committee, after Burwell and the town could not agree on a deal for running this year’s rodeo.

Last November, Snowmass Village voters agreed to pay $5 million to buy from Burwell the 20-acre rodeo grounds at the entrance to town.

“It was always assumed that Bill would run it,” said Carey Shanks, assistant town manager in Snowmass Village. “But a lease agreement was not brought about.”

The rodeo costs up to $100,000 to produce each summer, but is also said to take in more than that during a good year.

“There is no expectation that it is going to be huge,” Mordkin said. “But I don’t see why we should lose money.”

The rodeo is a 30-year tradition in the former ranching valley, and the rodeos that Burwell produced the past five years were said to be among the best.

“Everybody agreed that Bill put on a damn fine rodeo,” said Shanks. “We want to live up to what Bill has done.”

And while Mordkin has stepped up to start putting the elements of the rodeo together, he’s sensitive to the suggestion that he somehow took the event away from Burwell.

“I do not have any desire to be the honcho running the rodeo, but I think that a good quality rodeo is extremely important to our community, especially when we don’t have a golf amenity,” Mordkin said. ” I am a very, very big fan and go to rodeos all year round.”

And Mordkin, who is an attorney and runs a business on the Snowmass Village Mall, has also worked at the rodeo.

“I’m the guy that releases the steers and calves for a timed event,” said Mordkin. “I am the guy that gathers the scores, I do flagging, whatever has to be done.”

Mordkin said he was paid “volunteer” wages and stopped accepting them last year after he was elected to council. He said during the campaign that keeping the rodeo in Snowmass was one of his goals.

Mordkin has recently reached an agreement with a Pueblo operator to supply the “rough stock” for this year’s rodeo, which includes bulls and broncos, as well as another group to bring in the needed steers and calves.

“These are all people who have done it before,” Mordkin said. “We are not working with a fresh crew.”

Twirp Anderson and John Sommers will be once again be handling music and calling the event.

“All I’m doing is making sure that the same people are willing to come back,” Mordkin said. “And so far, so good.”

The first rodeo may be June 19, but if not, the first will certainly be held on Wednesday, June 26, Mordkin said, and then on Wednesday and Saturday evenings through the summer.

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