Flying Heels, High Country Stampede wrangle over rodeo schedules
A scheduling change proposed for the Granby Rodeo has stirred up pushback from another rodeo on the eastern side of the county.
In a Tuesday workshop, Grand County commissioners discussed the 2021 rodeo season related to the county-owned Flying Heels Rodeo Arena and the privately owned High Country Stampede Rodeo.
The Flying Heels Arena Association operates the Granby Rodeo at Flying Heels, which typically runs on Saturdays from June through the Fourth of July. Last year, due to COVID-19, the Saturdays began later in June and continued through all of July along with a few in August.
The High Country Stampede Rodeo in Fraser is owned and operated by the Winter Park Horseman’s Association. The rodeo made the decision not to operate last year due to COVID-19, but its schedule typically begins July 4 and continues through August.
This year Flying Heels wants to extend its season until the end of July, but the Winter Park Horseman’s Association and Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino raised objections.
Cimino has previously questioned why Grand County supports two of the three rodeos in the county — Flying Heels and the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo — while excluding the one in his district.
As nonprofits, the two county-supported rodeos do not have to pay to use the county’s facilities, per a facility use agreement. The organizations still have to put out the applicable insurance for their events and reconcile bills for operation, such as electric and trash, with the county.
Operating on private land, the High Country Stampede doesn’t enjoy the same benefits that the other two rodeos do.
“I have concerns about the effect that those (Flying Heels) rodeos after the Fourth of July would have on the viability of Fraser’s rodeos,” Cimino said. “… My concern is a county owned and somewhat maintained arena is different than one owned and operated by a club.”
Flying Heels Rodeo organizer Tish Linke, sister to Commissioner Merrit Linke, disagreed with Cimino’s evaluation and argued that the High Country Stampede was trying to quash competition.
“Maybe if the Winter Park Horseman’s Association had focused more on their product and less on the competition, none of us would be using our time listening to another ‘Everybody gets a trophy’ story,” Tish Linke said.
Andrew Fischbach, a director for the Winter Park Cattleman’s Association, argued that Flying Heel’s schedule extension would split the contestant pool and put a strain on the parents with children in the Junior Rodeo, harming both organizations.
“We find ourselves in this competitive position now that we didn’t have previously,” Fischbach said. “We believe their decision to expand the rodeo season into July beyond Independence Day over the top of our schedule is not going to be a good thing for rodeo in the county.”
Members of the public with rodeo backgrounds countered that having two rodeos on the same day would actually draw more participants. Tish Linke also felt that the decision was not the county’s concern, accusing Cimino of showing a bias toward the Fraser rodeo and wasting county time.
Granby Chamber Director Lauren Huber spoke to her concerns about county commissioners making decisions based on scheduling conflicts.
“What are the unintended consequences of moving forward with a vote on something like this?” Huber asked. “If a competing event was being planned in another town, could I come and ask the county commissioners to intervene?”
Granby’s town manager and mayor also spoke in favor of the Flying Heels Rodeo, asking for a resolution that suited both sides.
Representatives of High Country Stampede said that organizers of Flying Heels had been unresponsive to attempts to work out a compromise outside of county discussions.
Tish Linke said she felt like Flying Heels was being “snubbed,” which is why she said she didn’t respond. She said the Winter Park Cattleman’s Associations’ concerns about participation come down to quality.
“Make a good product and people will come,” Tish Linke repeatedly asserted.
As the discussion devolved into a back and forth between parties, Commissioner Kris Manguso spoke up.
“I don’t see a resolution tonight except for hard feelings and who does that benefit?” Manguso said. “We are adults here, whether we want to admit it or not … I think that you guys need to sit down together over a cold beverage of your choice and talk.”
Both rodeos agreed to meet and try to work out a compromise outside of a county commissioners’ vote.
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