Visitors might raise an eyebrow when they get a sincere invitation to the local rodeo. Sure enough, locals and visitors bust out their finest cowboy boots, 10-gallon hats, and fringed apparel for the weekly rodeo series in July and August. The rodeo has a long-standing history in Steamboat, dating back more than 100 years to events as early as 1897 and 1898. In a valley filled with skilled ranchers and instinctively adept cowboys and cowgirls, rodeo-style events naturally evolved as a form of entertainment. Locals gathered at the base of Emerald Mountain, where the rodeo still takes place today, to behold the impressive athletic accomplishments of both human and animals.
Cowboy Lifestyle Shapes Steamboat
At the turn of the nineteenth century agricultural goods were the primary exports from the Yampa Valley. Many of the gorgeous ranching estates that still exist today continue to be owned and operated by the original families that settled here in the early 1900s. The impacts of an equestrian-driven culture are still tangible in the streets of Steamboat today. For example, the width of Steamboat’s Main Street is as wide as was originally deemed necessary to accommodate “parking” and riding horses through the downtown area. During your visit, stand on Main Street and imagine if the road were still dirt and there were beautiful, saddled horses outside the restaurants and shops. In 1903, as rodeo-activity became more omnipresent in Steamboat’s community, a new ordinance was passed prohibiting riding horses at speeds greater than 10 mph through town. Imagine how this must have been enforced without speedometers.
The Weekly Pro Rodeo Series is Born
While rodeo activities seemed to be a part of every gathering and celebration in Steamboat for the majority of the 20th century, the weekly tradition became formalized in the 1970s. In 1982 the official “Steamboat Springs Rodeo Series” was established and in 1989 the event received sanctioning from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to adopt the name “Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series”. In 2002 the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series won the “Small Outdoor Rodeo of the Year” award and has been nominated two additional times.
The Tradition of the Rodeo Today
The tradition of the rodeo is very much alive and well in Steamboat Springs to this day. The robust rodeo grounds at the base of Emerald Mountain fill with horses, bulls, and sheeps in the days leading up to the weekly event. Local cowboys and cowgirls bust out their finest western apparel for the occasion. Wranglers impress with their acrobatic equestrian skills, and young riders thrill audience members with their nimble navigation abilities. Young children are welcomed into the arena for a fun, friendly sheep chase that audience members adore and youthful participants will never forget. Enjoy food and beverages from local vendors in the tiered outdoor seating.
Add the Rodeo to Your Colorado Vacation
Visit Steamboat Springs in July or August to experience this historic rodeo tradition for yourself. Located between the base of Emerald Mountain and the Yampa River, the rodeo venue itself is conveniently walkable from any downtown location. Parking is available onsite to those who arrive early. Consider parking at the rodeo arena before getting dinner downtown to secure a good spot. Outfit yourself at F.M. Light & Sons if you want to blend in with the local western wearing crowd. Click here to learn more about adding the Pro Rodeo Series to your Steamboat visit itinerary.
Thank you to the Steamboat Pilot and Tread of Pioneer Museum for providing useful historical information for this article.