Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo: 68 years of tradition

Photo courtesy Diana Talbot
This year marks the 68th anniversary of the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo. The rodeos will be held July 2 at 4 p.m., July 3 at 6 p.m. and July 4 at 2 p.m. They will be presented at the Western Heritage Event Center arena and grounds.

By Lisa Scott
Special to The SUN

This year marks the 68th anniversary of the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo held annually in Pagosa Springs.

This multistate sanctioned rodeo series features amateur cowboys and cowgirls from various states competing for prizes and prize money. Rodeo participants receive cash and prize awards for their daily performances including the coveted personalized belt buckle. The overall cowboy and cowgirl award is presented after the third and final performance and each winner receives a Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo 30/30 Henry rifle.

Traditional American rodeo features cowboys and cowgirls in the various livestock events like bronc riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, breakaway roping, barrel racing, bull riding and team roping. The day is also filled with a variety of exhibitions to make an overall entertaining affair.

An impressive grand entry with flags waving from westerners on horseback kicks off each performance that is accompanied by the announcer introducing special guests and the crowd singing the national anthem.

Mutton Bustin’ is always fun and full of laughs as boys and girls, 6 years old or younger, don helmets and vests prior to mounting a sheep, gripping a rope tied around the chest of a sheep and hanging on while the sheep races out of the chute as it opens. Ten contestants each day vie for the coveted belt buckle that is given to the daily winner with the longest ride time. Every rider goes home with a Daisy BB gun.

The rodeo clown is a staple in the rodeo arena. Called a “bullfighter,” the chief responsibility is to protect the cowboy from dangerous livestock. While the cowboy is focused on the ride and maximizing time, the bullfighter distracts the livestock once the rider dismounts. The term “clown” comes from the entertaining side of this job, when the person entertains the crowd during the lulls in the action. Various activities are included in daily events like the Daisy BB gun raffle and the presentation of the honorary Red Ryder Award.

Red Ryder was the main cowboy character in the popular western comic strip created by Stephen Slesinger and artist Fred Harman that ran for over 25 years in newspapers all over the country. Red was a strong and ethical cowboy who lived on Painted Valley Ranch in the Blanco Basin in the San Juan Mountains. His horse was Thunder, his sidekick was Little Beaver with horse Papoose, and they protected the people and land from unscrupulous behavior. The geography is that of Pagosa Springs and this community was blessed to have Fred Harman III as a town resident for decades. The Pagosa Springs SUN continues to feature this historic comic strip.

The rodeos are July 2 at 4 p.m., July 3 at 6 p.m., and July 4 at 2 p.m. presented at the Western Heritage Event Center arena and grounds. Tickets are available at Goodman’s Department Store, Home Again, and at the gate prior to the event. The cost is $10 per adult and $6 for children 12 and under on July 2 and 3. Tickets are $12 per adult and $8 for children on July 4. Box seats are available and can be purchased by calling 264-5000.

Concessions are available throughout the events including smoked meat plates, Our Savior Lutheran School manning the beer tent and selling drinks and snacks and lemonade. More rodeo information is available by calling 264-2730 or, or by visiting