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Rodeo saved

Sarah S. Chung

Narrowly dodging a bullet, the Snowmass Village Rodeo will celebrate its 28th birthday this summer.

With time running out to sign the needed contracts to run the rodeo, potential offers to buy the rodeo grounds waiting in the wings and the landowner about to step on a plane to Africa, the odds of saving the summer event for another season appeared slim.

But a last ditch-effort by the public and private sectors has saved the day and the rodeo, at least for one more year.

“The most exciting thing is how the town, the resort association and private sector all came together on this,” said Bill Burwell, co-owner of the rodeo grounds, who went ahead and hired the staff needed to put on another modern celebration of the Old West.

Several months ago, the rodeo grounds were put up for sale for $5.5 million. Proposals to save the rodeo included an offer by Burwell to run the event for another year if his annual losses – about $100,000 – were underwritten.

On Monday, the Town Council approved a $30,000 subsidy. In the subsequent 36 hours, the president of the Snowmass Village Resort Association wrangled together enough support from his board of directors and the real estate community to win Burwell over. In dollars, Terry Hunt didn’t quite rustle up the remaining $70,000, but he came “close enough.”

“It wasn’t the money, but more of the `let’s get everyone behind this,’ ” Burwell said. “Terry really stepped up to the plate and delivered. I was more impressed with the commitment than the money.”

“It’s been an arduous 36 hours to say the least and there’s still work to do yet,” Hunt said yesterday. “It really is amazing what can be done when the community pulls together.”

Jim Light of Chaffin, Light Associates – former owner of the rodeo grounds – applauded the community for stepping up and not letting a valuable tradition become a memory.

“I think there’s a high degree of symbolism here,” Light said.

But Mayor T. Michael Manchester hopes this week’s momentum carries over into a permanent solution to retain the rodeo.

“We’re all happy that the rodeo will continue, but [the subsidy] was a one-time, short-term solution. We need to continue to try to find a long-term solution,” he said.

Toward that end, the council agreed at a meeting Wednesday to obtain an appraisal of the rodeo grounds, located at the entrance to town. The town is pursuing a public/private partnership to acquire the parcel.

“I think it was pretty obvious from Monday’s meeting that people are interested in us doing something, so I say, let’s get the ball rolling and let the voters decide in the fall,” said Councilman Doug Mercatoris.


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