It wouldn't be the Old West without the rodeo, and Breckenridge is set to rectify that situation this weekend.
Starting Saturday and running Saturday and Sunday nights through Sept. 2, the fairgrounds of the new Breckenridge PRCA ProRodeo will occupy the Airport Road parking lot on the north side of town, opening at 3:30 p.m. daily.
Once inside, there's plenty to keep rodeo goers occupied, from face painting, mechanical bull riding, a petting zoo and live country music to food vendors, merchandise and libations. A free "behind the chutes" tour, including livestock viewing, takes place at 4 p.m., and the rodeo itself runs from 5-7.
Rodeo events include the traditional saddle bronc, where a rider gets on a bucking horse with a special saddle and attempts to stay on for eight seconds holding only a lead rope; steer wrestling, where a horse-mounted rider chases and wrestles a steer to the ground and barrel racing, where a horse and rider try to earn the fastest time completing a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels. Other events include bareback riding, bull riding, team roping and tie-down roping with calves.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for kids 7-15 years old, with free entrance for kids 6 and younger. Season passes and VIP entrance are also available.
"In the early '70s there were permanent rodeo grounds in Breckenridge, and this whole valley was ranching at one time," said rodeo promoter Brad Bays of Breckenridge Stables. "Rodeo is a Western tradition that used to be daily work for the cowboys, and now it's a place where people can gather to have fun and the contestants can win money."
The event is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the regulating body that aims to ensure the safety of contestants and livestock. Participants range from world champion cowboys who travel from other states to compete to locals who've obtained a PRCA card. The events are qualifiers for the National Finals in Las Vegas, which pay out over $5 million, Bays said.
In the Breckenridge rodeo, the jackpot depends on the number of contestants, though Bays said organizers are adding $1,000 for every event per rodeo to get more cowboys to come.
"Rodeos are a great way for families to be entertained at an affordable price," he said. "They're a lot of fun to watch or enter. There's everything from bulls to bucking horses to clowns and kids doing mutton busting on sheep."
Mutton busting is where kids get on the back of a sheep and ride for as long as they can. This is free of charge and open to children 70 pounds or lighter, with a limit of 10 kids per night. Sign-ups start when the rodeo grounds open and prizes include belt buckles, Wrangler jeans and more.
Of all the events, Bays is partial to bull riding, in part because he has bulls competing in rodeos around the country. Still, he said, "everything makes a rodeo, from the horse events to the calf events to the bull events."