Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo canceled due to public health order restrictions

By Lisa Scott
Western Heritage Event Center

It is with great sadness, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western Heritage Event Center Board of Directors is canceling the 71st annual Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo. 

This heavy decision was made after the governor released the sixth public health order — Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors -— which prohibits rodeos. This action is for the safety of our contestants, sponsors, spectators, stock contractor and staff, volunteers, and the overall safety and health of our community. The board thanks everyone for their continued support and for loving rodeo. 

While there were rodeos in Pagosa Springs dating back into the beginning of the century, the first Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo was in 1949. In 1948, a group of local ranchers organized an effort to start a regular named rodeo series for this town. The initial group of volunteers included Glen Edmonds, Fred Harman, Daily Hott, Leon Montroy, Terry Robinson and Babe Shahan, to name a few. They collaborated with the owner of the rights to the Red Ryder registered trademark to brand this rodeo with the cartoon character that is so famous in this region. In 1949, the first rodeo was held at the site of the current Ross Aragon Community Center. Photographs show how automobiles were placed in a large circular formation to create the boundary of the rodeo arena. Spectators stood behind the cars.

Later that year, the committee advertised and sold stock in the rodeo organization, named Pagosa Springs Enterprises, and raised $15,000. With these proceeds, approximately 40 acres of land was purchased for the express use of hosting the annual rodeo. That initial site continues as the current facility on the corner of U.S. 84 and Mill Creek Road. Construction of a rodeo arena with wood boards and woven wire was accomplished just prior to the 1950 Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo. Over time, the structures that exist on the rodeo grounds today were constructed as additional stock was sold for the purpose of raising money and creating a supporting membership.

For over 70 years, this organization has been run by local dedicated volunteers, funded with individual and business donations from the local community, and continues to be an independent, self-sustaining and successful entity.

In the mid-1990s, the organization obtained their IRS nonprofit status and renamed the organization the Western Heritage Event Center, whose mission is to provide an annual three-day Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo as well as a year-round venue for education and training for youth and equestrian events for Archuleta County. The Western Heritage board is dedicated to preserving the history and traditions of the American West.

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This story was posted on June 11, 2020.