Return of the rodeo

— For Routt County rodeo fans such as Ren Martyn, Friday night marked the beginning of summer with the opening night of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series.

"This represents our community," Martyn said. "I'm used to seeing cows downtown, now you see condominiums. I hope rodeo will become more of an influence than less of one."

Announcer John Shipley opened the event by working the crowd into a fervor, asking folks to hoot, holler and stomp their feet. "This year's rodeo will be a little more rock and roll," Shipley said before the competition began.

The bareback riders came out charging to music as Hartsel's Micky Downare carried the lead into the two-day competition with a score of 75.

The event was a welcome homecoming for Andy Kurtz, a saddle bronc rider who grew up just south of Clark. "I'm always so excited for the hometown rodeo," Kurtz said. "There's not a prettier spot for a rodeo."

Kurtz is leaving Steamboat to continue his rodeo circuit tour, competing in an event today in Santa Fe, N.M.

Kurtz gave the enthusiastic home crowd a show on a horse aptly named Wild Thing. "The momentum sucked me back in the saddle, and it was a fight to stay on versus just staying on for a pretty ride," Kurtz said.

Although Kurtz was disappointed with the style of his ride, he scored a 71, just behind Friday leader Wes Burns, who had 75.

Local Steamboat competitor Michael Sisk, bucked early from his saddle bronc, would have been pleased to get a comparable score. "These young guys will go to three, four, five rodeos in a weekend," Sisk said. "I've got a great rodeo here that I'm in once a week. It just takes a few to knock the rust off."

Sisk, 40, has a handle on the drive that keeps him competing and ensures fan turnout.

"There's nothing on the planet that gets your adrenaline roaring like sitting on a bucking horse -- it doesn't get better than that."

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