For Immediate Release
Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series
MAIN CONTACT: John Shipley
Steamboat Springs, Colorado (June 21, 2023)
New Dates for Old Rodeo Mainstays
The Rodeo is Older; Cowboys’ Roundup Days is Younger
The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series board, through consultation with Paul Knowles of the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Downtown Craig, has recently learned that rodeos in Steamboat Springs go back further than originally thought- now into the 1800s. At the same time, due to a 33-year-old newspaper error, Cowboys Roundup Days, the traditional Fourth of July rodeo, is actually quite a bit younger than once believed. Through the use of digitally archived newspapers, Knowles recently discovered the discrepancies and alerted the Rodeo Series’ board of directors.
It has long been believed that Steamboat Springs’ first rodeo took place in 1904. Now it appears that the history of the cowboy sport in the Yampa Valley is older than previously thought, probably in the late 1800’s. According to Knowles’ research, news of a “bronco busting contest” (the term “rodeo” wasn’t common until the 1910s) first appeared in the Steamboat newspapers in 1897. That’s when it was reported that local pioneer, Jack Ellis, outrode J.T. Bickford, a former rider with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Unfortunately, most of the local newspaper archives burned in 1909 and searching the existing digitally indexed newspapers is notoriously cumbersome. Therefore, Knowles believes the first event may have occurred even earlier.
Knowles’ research also uncovered another unexpected find: Cowboys’ Roundup Days, the local Fourth of July celebration/rodeo, is significantly younger than previously thought. A newspaper error in 1990 added 23 years to the event- calling it the 87th annual event instead of the 64th. The error stuck. In reality, Cowboys Roundup Days began in 1927 when the American Legion took over the Independence Day festivities. This would make 2023 the 97th annual celebration, not the 120th.
“The main goal of the Pro Rodeo Series is to help residents and visitors understand and appreciate the fact that Steamboat Springs was a ranch town long before it was a ski town. That legacy really sets us apart from the majority of Colorado’s ski resorts” said John Shipley, rodeo series board president. “We welcome this new information and thank Paul for his research.” Knowles concludes by noting that “Exact historical dates are frequently murky.” “What remains clear, however, is that the Yampa Valley’s history is firmly embedded in its agricultural and ranching heritage”.