Part of living the Western lifestyle is being prepared for anything Mother Nature can throw out at you, and officials and volunteers have had their hands full dealing with that this week at the 64th annual National High School Finals Rodeo at the Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs.
Sweetwater County spent about $1.4 million to prepare for the NHSFR, which includes improvements to the county fairgrounds in Rock Springs, the rodeo arena and shooting range in Green River. Some of the improvements include:
All that said, the summer rainstorm that blew through southern Wyoming on Monday had rodeo volunteers scrambling to maintain the arena and grounds for the largest outdoor high school rodeo in the nation.
As a first-year host, there have been some ups and downs, but there is a general nod of approval from the cowboys and cowgirls.
“I think people got spoiled with it at Cam-plex,” said Colleen Faber, whose daughter Emily, finished the first-go ranked 15th in goat tying.
“People have said they wish Gillette could host it every year, but Sweetwater County has done a good job. It’s a big event and they are working hard with this being their first year. We’re staying with friends, so I don’t know how the campgrounds are, but I was talking to some of the vendors at the trade show. They were saying they wished it was set up in one area instead of three tents.”
“We were down here in April (during the spring season) and there is a huge difference between now and then,” said Gillette barrel racer Cassidy Kruse. She finished second in the first-go and on track to make it to the finals. She is one of three Gillette High School Rodeo Club members who competed last year at Cam-plex.
“They’re always trying to make it the best they can for us kids. I’m staying off-site, but there seems to be quite a few camping spots and it looks like they’re pretty good. I think they’re doing an excellent job with it in their first year,” the Gillette cowgirl said.
Gillette bareback rider Garrett Ford agreed that the Sweetwater Events Complex has come a long way between April and Sunday’s opening performance
“For what they had set up in April, I thought this place was going to be a (joke),” he said. “But it turned out pretty nice. I’m fairly impressed.
“We’re camping down in Green River. We only got a little bit of rain Monday night. But it flat came down in Rock Springs. The arena and grounds were muddy as hell, but they did a good job and took care of it.”
Officials and volunteers have done kept the area prepared for the best high school rodeo competitors in the country. Campgrounds and facility grounds are holding up and extracurricular activities are making the social hours more enjoyable.
Other than that blast of weather to start things off, it has come off fairly well for a first-year operation.
“We were actually walking through the trade show on Monday. It’s in aluminum framed tents that bolt to the ground like a steel-frame barn,” said first-year NHSFR qualifier Bailey Young, who’s headed to Casper College next fall on a scholarship. “Pretty soon the water was running through it just like down the street, but they had the merchandise off the floor up on cinder blocks.
“There’s going to be problems and things that need to change. Cam-plex still changes things and they’ve done it for years. There was some expansion that they weren’t able to get to, getting some horse stalls put up. It’ll be a nice facility next year. They’ve really gone after it and come a long ways in a real short period of time.”
The rodeo ends Saturday. Sweetwater County will host the NHSFR through 2015.