Snowmass gets saddle sore over rodeo |

Snowmass gets saddle sore over rodeo

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Snowmass Village Town Council has itself a rodeo this summer, but it is not comfortable being in the saddle.

“I don’t like us being in the rodeo business,” said Councilman Doug Mercatoris.

After voters approved the purchase of the rodeo grounds last year, the council had hoped to reach an agreement with Bill Burwell and the Rodeo Co. of Snowmass to run this summer’s twice-weekly rodeo, but that didn’t happen.

And board members say there wasn’t time to hire a director to run the event.

So now the council, and especially Councilman Arnie Mordkin, is responsible for the event this summer. A citizen’s rodeo committee is assisting Mordkin in the effort, but it’s mostly fallen to him to direct the effort.

And while Mordkin’s fellow board members are grateful to him for his efforts, they are worried about his asking various town staff members to help with details of the event, such as fixing fences, answering phone calls, writing checks to pay bills and arranging for the town to obtain a liquor license to sell alcohol at the event.

“I think we are putting them in an uncomfortable position by asking them to do things, particularly when it is a councilman asking,” said Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester. “It would be better if the rodeo entity was separate from the town.”

But Mordkin told the board, “We are the rodeo this year. We may wish it wasn’t so. But I think we need to stop saying, ‘I wish.'”

He also said he would be careful not to overburden the town staff and that he would clear requests for staff time through acting Town Manager Hunt Walker.

And while Burwell and his Rodeo Co. of Snowmass didn’t sign an agreement to run the whole show this summer, he did sign a contract for the opportunity to sell $16.95 barbecue dinners at the event.

The contract calls for the Rodeo Co. to pay the town $10,000 and supply two large party tents for the rodeo to use, which would cost the town about $23,000 to rent for the summer, according to Mordkin.

And one councilman raised the issue of the town’s financial exposure.

“If we lose $100,000 on the rodeo this summer, it’s going to come out of the general fund,” Mercatoris said.

Mordkin assured Mercatoris that the rodeo wouldn’t lose $100,000, and a budget he submitted to the council shows that the rodeo would take in $212,000 over the summer and expenses would run $210,000.

Snowmass Village finance director Marianne Rakowski has been asked by the council to oversee the financial aspects of this year’s rodeo, which the council conceded would require some of her time and attention.

“Remember, Marianne,” Mercatoris told her, “even cowgirls get the blues.”

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