Fraser’s High Country Stampede Rodeo celebrates 25 years |

Fraser’s High Country Stampede Rodeo celebrates 25 years

Katie Looby
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

From July 5 through Aug. 30, each Saturday the Winter Park Horsemen’s Association will put on its 25th annual High Country Stampede Rodeo at the John Work Arena in Fraser.

About 150 local and visiting cowboys from across the country will compete as thousands of Fraser Valley vacationers and locals watch.

Andy P. Fischbach, association vice president, says “man-on-animal” events are exciting.

“It’s fast-paced,” he said. “We keep the action moving. In my opinion it’s more exciting than hockey, but you don’t have to watch for the puck going into the stands,” he said.

Crowds cheer the loudest during the bronco (wild horse) and bull riding, said Association President Dale A. Sonnek. Cowboys usually limp out of the arena, he said.

“(It’s exciting) anytime you have a cowboy flying through the air,” he said. “People typically like to see the animals win.”

Many cowboys who compete in the event are from Colorado and Wyoming. A full arena accommodates about 1,500 guests. About 9,000 people attended the rodeos last year, Sonnek estimates.

The junior rodeo begins at 4 p.m. and the main performance is at 7 p.m. It features about five bronco and 10 bull riding competitions a week.

During the “calf roping” two cowboys team up to rope a calf. One person ropes the young cow’s feet while the other ropes its head. They compete to see who can finish the task the quickest. This is what cowboys used to do before they gave them medicine or shots, Sonnek said.

Barrel (horse) racing and pole bending also are timed events, and participants race against the clock.

The arena doesn’t provide cowboys enough room to race against each other.

“We don’t have that kind of space here in the mountains,” Fischbach said.

Races are times electronically. The digital clock adds to the crowd’s excitement and fans “scream” when races are close, he said. “The time clock is telling them it’s a good run.”

Fischbach said he and other Horseman’s Association members don’t need to watch the clock because they can “feel” a good run.

Children participate in “mutton bustin’,” and sit on sheep. They also chase calves during the “calf-scramble.”

“It’s fun to watch, especially when it’s muddy,” Sonnek said.

Family Fun Nights ” July 19 and Aug. 9 ” offer wagon rides, pictures with the Horseman Queen, face painting and bake sales.

Sonnek said animals used during the sport are in good condition.

“People are very much into their animals, and make sure they’re in good shape when they ride,” he said.

The John Work Arena has 17 acres of property for seating, parking and food and beverage service. It also features an enclosed dining area and ambulance barn.

While the ambulance is needed occasionally, Sonnek said there haven’t been any serious injuries while he’s been involved in the event. Safety is a priority, and the association hires bull fighters to protect contestants, he said.

Volunteers who run the event have been planning for the 25th annual High Country Stampede Rodeo since January. Lisa Craig, owner of Innovative Intermedia, is donating her time to redesign the association’s Web sites. She started work on the site 10 months ago, Fischbach said.

“Were rated the top family rodeo in the West by Mountain Living Magazine,” Sonnek said. “We’ve got an example of just about every event during the rodeo.”

The nonprofit organization applies for grants, and the community sponsors it. The rodeo then advertises for the sponsoring organizations at the rodeo and on its Web site. Sponsorships range from Patron of the Rodeo for $75 to Grand Marshal for $5,000. For more information visit

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