Guest commentary: Rodeo forges community bonds

Attendance in 2021 exceeds expectations, affirms rodeo role in Snowmass

The Snowmass Village Western Heritage Association Board
Special to the Snowmass Sun
Snowmass locals Joshua Sukoff, 17, left, and Emma Goldblatt, 17, watch the grand entry of the first night of the Snowmass Rodeo on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The rodeo is back this summer after it was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. The rodeo is every Wednesday night at 7 through Aug. 18 with team roping, barrel racing, bull riding, and children’s events. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

The Snowmass Western Heritage Association was created in 2009 to continue the tradition of the Snowmass Village Rodeo that originated in 1974. This year the board of SWHA decided in late winter to go forward with the rodeo in the summer despite the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In deciding to move ahead, the board believed that the rodeo was an important community asset that could help the local economy and the local psyche recover from the impacts of the pandemic with its heritage of resilience and strength. Rather than give in, the board decided it was time to honor and celebrate who we are as a community.

Imagine our surprise when attendance exceeded all expectations by doubling from the 2018, which was very successful in its own right. The outpouring of local donor support and the excited crowds proved our decision was the right one. Parking spilled over into the streets and food lines were long, but cowboys and cowgirls riding their beautiful horses around the arena with waving flags to the lyrics of the star-spangled banner floating up to the surrounding mountains made everyone’s hearts race.

A cowboy competes in the saddle bronc event at the Snowmass Rodeo on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

We are not sure whether this record attendance will be the new normal but the board is planning as if it will be. Currently the town is working on improving the entrance to Snowmass Village with plans to enhance the wetlands area, creating more flexible open space area for soccer and redesigning the rodeo site. The SWHA board is working closely with the town to promote the affordable, family-oriented Snowmass rodeo as integral to the brand that is Snowmass Village. The site provides an opportunity for the community to welcome visitors and locals alike with an entrance that reflects its character and values. A new, permanent multi-purpose facility that is home to the rodeo and adaptable for other uses such as an ice rink in the winter is a worthy alternative to the current plan centered around accommodating cars.

The SWHA board is endorsing such a permanent facility because it preserves the vitality of the rodeo in hosting 12,000 guests each summer and entertaining as many as 400 children per rodeo with invitations to participate in mutton busting and the calf scramble. A new permanent rodeo facility also will welcome visitors and locals alike to the diversity of our valleywide community by showcasing the unique talents of generations of ranchers and farmers who help preserve open space and raise produce and beef locally to help sustain our resort communities in an environmentally friendly way.

In keeping with its charter “to inform and educate visitors as well as area residents about this western heritage and character of Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley,” SWHA looks forward to continuing to honor the diversity of our community and the immutable bonds that come from shared values that sustain our valley wide community.

Please feel free to contact any board member if you feel a kinship for our mission and want to help either with donations or as volunteers.

The Snowmass Village Western Heritage Association Board

Jim Snyder, Tom Yocum, Jim Finn, Gaines Norton, Tom Ding, The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter, Sam Johnson, Markey Butler and James Knowlton

Darce Vold, Executive Director