Opening with a cannon blast and closing with a rousing rendition of ‘God Bless America,’ the 87th rendition of the Ute Mountain Roundup rodeo featured numerous moments that will not soon be forgotten.
Among such moments were several standout performances by some of rodeo’s biggest stars, inspiring performances by injured bull riders and local barrel racers and laugh-inducing jokes produced by legendary rodeo clown, John Harrison.
All in all, the three-night event at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds was a rousing success that once again solidified the ‘Roundup’ as one of the region’s most exciting and memorable events.
Opening on June 8 with an exciting array of fireworks and stirring singing of “God Bless America,” the first night of the Ute Mountain Roundup featured rides by some of rodeo’s biggest stars.
Chief among them was bull rider Ty Wallace, who entered the event ranked No. 3 in the world.
The Colbran native sat in the shoots as the first six bull riders were bucked off before climbing aboard a bull named Gale Force and bringing the crowd to its feet with a dizzying ride that resulted in a score of 77.00.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been here to the pro rodeo, and these guys have been good to me,” Wallace said. For a small-town rodeo, they’ve done a really good job. I had a good little bull, a young bull that was kind of out of line for a minute, but he spun, and it worked out.”
Among the other well-known stars who provided standout performances was Corona, New Mexico, resident Taos Muncy, who currently sits 16th in the world standings for the saddle bronc event and has won $1.4 million in his career.
Perched atop a bucking horse with a distinct kick and an unnatural rhythm that would confound less-experienced riders, Muncy stayed aboard and earned an evening-best score of 79.
In the tie-down roping event, Albuquerque resident Seth Hall’s time of 9.7 seconds placed him at the top of the leaderboard. Nick Guy of Sparta, Wisconsin, put forth the best steer wrestling performance of the night with a time of 4.1 seconds.
“I was here last year, and I got the same time,” said Guy, who is ranked No. 5 steer wrestler in the world. “The arena conditions are always good here, it’s a nice big arena, the ground is good, the steers are usually good, and it’s a great little rodeo.”
Other highlights from the evening included a 17.60-second barrel race from Jessie Telford of Caldwell, Idaho, and two scary moments for bull rider Dalan Duncan, who rode three times after his first two bulls of the evening tripped and fell coming out of the shoot.
At the conclusion of the evening’s events, several competitors signed autographs outside of the arena much to the delight of young fans, who eagerly handed posters to smiling cowboys and cowgirls.
“I try to set a good example for younger kids because I remember growing up and looking up to guys who were where I’m at in my career,” Wallace said. “If I can make a kid’s dream come true and give them some confidence, I enjoy it.”
With Queen’s rendition of “We Will Rock You” blaring over the loud speakers and more than 1,000 fans vigorously exercising their voice boxes, 14 bull riders stood Friday night near the Montezuma County Fairgrounds arena in preparation for the Ute Mountain Roundup’s most popular event.
Hailing from states as far away as Florida and as close as Utah and New Mexico, the young and wiry cowboys stretched and tended to various injuries while talking among themselves about their recent trials and tribulations at events that took place as recently as the day before.
By the time the gates finally opened for the night’s first rider, Cullen Telfer of Brandon, Florida, audience members could hardly contain their excitement. Unfortunately for Telfer however, the eight-second buzzer never sounded as the former high school wrestling state champion lost his balance and fell to the ground after his bull made a hard right turn.
Over the course of the night, 12 riders would face similar fates thanks to an athletic array of bulls brought to Cortez by the Honeycutt Stock Co., which has been breeding bulls for eight decades.
At times during the evening, several of the animals became enraged to the point that cowboys and rodeo clowns alike were forced to avoid angry charges, leading announcer Jody Carper to comment that one animal looked “as mad as Tiger Woods when they posted his picture the other day,” following an alleged DUI.
Among the most exciting rides of the night was that produced by La Salle, Utah native Jacob Smith, who overcame his bull’s wildness in the shoots and produced an evening-best score of 74 points while Ram Jam’s 1977 classic, “Black Betty,” blared in the background.
Also on display throughout the evening was an innate toughness displayed by several riders, including Dustin Muncy, who broke his nose after getting his hand stuck in the rope. He limped out of the arena, followed a small blood trail.
“When it’s good it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s bad,” said cowboy Drew Flynn, when asked about the injuries that result from bull riding. “About four weeks ago in Franklin, Tennessee, a bull hit me coming out of the bucking chute ... and damaged some ligaments. It can be a little brutal ... but if you love it, you love it.”
By the time the evening concluded, Ty Wallace sat atop the Roundup’s bull riding standings with a score of 78, which he posted on opening night. Smith’s score of 74 was good enough for second place, and Australia native Matty Pfingst’s score of 50 points was good enough for third.
Other standout performances from the evening included those of saddle bronc rider Chance Darling, who posted an evening-best score of 76, and steer wrestler Josh Peak, whose time of 5.2 seconds was the top performance of the night and placed him in second overall.
In the team roping event, Clayton Van Aken and Cullen Teller just missed the arena record of 4.1 seconds with a time of 4.5 seconds.
At the end of the evening’s festivities, several cowboys and cowgirls signed autographs for young fans outside the arena while chatting with rodeo staff members, friends, and family members.
“We’ve all been raised to treat one another the same and treat everybody with love and respect,” Flynn said. “The people I’ve met through rodeo and traveling ... I’ve always got a place to stay. If I go broke, somebody’s got my back. They go broke, I’ve got their back. It’s a family, and we try to treat everybody that way.”