The 11th season of mutton bustin' and bull riding starts tonight in Avon.
By John O'Neill
Avon returns to the Wild West this Thursday, June 28, with the reckoning of its western roots and the first of the season’s Beaver Creek Rodeo Series to be held every Thursday night through Aug. 2 behind Chapel Square in Avon.
The cowboy competition has special significance in Colorado, as the state is one of the few places that the competition may have gotten its start. Battling for bragging rights with some cow towns in Arizona and Texas, Colorado claims to have held the first-ever rodeo in Deer Trail, Colo., in 1869 when a few ranches decided to see who had the toughest cowboys.
Since those days, the rodeo has since evolved into a friendly atmosphere exemplified at the Avon event, which is coming into its eleventh season. Competitors can go head-to-head in a variety of events while spectators bask in the adrenaline of fast runs and wild rides.
The Beaver Creek Rodeo also focuses on crowd interaction, making it a highlight event for both locals and visitors.
“I think the festival atmosphere is what sets this rodeo apart,” says Cat Coughran, an organizer of the rodeo series. “Our guests can really take part in the action. It is so much more than finding your seat in the grandstands and leaving when it has all finished.”
Preceding the competitions are pony rides, face painting and a petting zoo in a setting that will take attendees back to the rustic feel of the Old West. There will also be vendors ringing the supper bell and serving up a variety foods, including savory barbecue.
“This year, coming into a new decade, we are really focusing on the fun,” Coughran said. “This is an important and fun summer event for our locals and our destination guests.”
The lineup of events for the rodeo aims to please the crowd with the classic country disciplines of bronco riding, calf scrambling, team roping, mutton busting for the kids, barrel racing, bull riding and burro racing.
“The (Beaver Creek) Rodeo is one of my favorite summer events,” says Vail local Alexa Flower, 21, who has been barrel racing in rodeos across the state for seven years. “Not only is there tough competition, but in the rodeo I get to run against people who I’ve been riding with for years. It’s fun, it’s competitive, but it’s friendly.”
For insight, spectators can expect to see cowboys and cowgirls give it their best shot riding bareback broncos and bulls as they do their best to stay atop the beast with the sole aid of one hand gripping a rope while being bucked across the arena.
“The bull riding is always a crowd favorite,” says Coughran. “It’s man against beast, and you never know what’s going to happen. We save that for last as a big finale.”
Bull riding, actually, is one of the few events that isn’t a skill set used on the ranch. Instead, it was a pride issue among cowboys who would bet against one another to see who could ride the toughest bull the longest, says Coughran.
Leaving the adrenaline seekers shaking their spurs in what could be considered the true bullpen, the speed seekers such as Flower take to the dirt, guiding their horsepower tightly around three barrels in the barrel racing event.
And while a good country music song might be considered three chords and three quarters the truth, it is no lie that a rodeo isn’t a rodeo without mutton bustin’ for the kids. Dubbed a “rodeo favorite,” kids will do their best to keep hang onto the back of a sheep while the woolen ride does its best to shake the rider loose.
Alexa Flower and her twin sister, Lauren Flower, have been successful competitors in the past, taking home a one-two finish at one of the Beaver Creek events last year. They praise the crowd as being a major motivator to all the competitors.
“The crowd really gets into it at Beaver Creek,” says Alexa Flower. “I definitely always get an adrenaline rush no matter how may times I run there. It’s fun to compete and have hundreds of people cheering you on the whole time.”
Keep an eye out for Flower and her horse, Treasured Alley, this summer at the rodeo.