What fun to interview the people passionate about their sport and the animals who make it possible. Read the original here:
Rodeo? Let’s Go!
Fruita Rimrock Rodeo
By Cecily Whiteside
“This family friendly entertainment has been a place for cowboys of all experience levels and ages to gather and compete for more than twenty years.”
The competition is between you and the animal, the adrenaline pumps, the crowd roars. You adjust your grip, take a deep breath, and nod. The gates open and then you and the bull are the only ones in the world. For a few short moments, that is, until the roar of the crowd reaches your ears, the world comes crashing – sometimes literally – back in. And you pick yourself up off the ground, brush yourself off, check that all is intact, and wave to the cheering fans.
Fruita Rimrock Rodeo is a summer staple in the Grand Valley. This family friendly entertainment has been a place for cowboys of all experience levels and ages to gather and compete for more than twenty years. Every Tuesday from June 2 until August 25, the rodeo draws competitors from across the Grand Valley, across the country, even across the world.
The cowboys who compete each week come from an assortment of backgrounds. Some are pro rodeo riders – past or present – but many make their living in more ordinary pursuits and come out to compete just for love of the sport. Jerry Berentis has been producing rodeos all over the west for 33 years from California to Texas, although most are in Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico. And of course Colorado, since this is his home. He smiles as he talks about ‘his’ cowboys. “We have bankers, lawyers, students, real estate agents, oilfield workers, truck drivers,” Jerry says. “We also have a lot of people from out of the area. People will call from New York or Los Angeles or even from Germany or England. They want to make sure we are having the rodeo in a particular week as they plan their summer vacation – either to watch or to compete. We are an internationally known event, and people come back year after year. And when the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) is in town, we get a lot of those guys coming over here to ride with us. We’ve even had bus loads of tourists from Japan.”
Jerry used to be a professional bareback rider and has a profound respect for the men he works with to make this a high quality event. “Our funny man is Joe Carr. All summer, rain or shine, he’s out there to entertain the crowd in-between events or when there’s a lull. He does jokes, skits, physical comedy.”
And then there’s J.D. Muller, the announcer “J.D. is a retired bullfighter,” Jerry says. “It takes a certain kind of guy to be a bullfighter. A lot of people want to be one, but not many can actually do it.” We’re not talking about the matador kind of bullfighter, waving a red cape and wearing a silly hat. These are the guys who chase the bulls and bucking broncos away from fallen riders; who dart in to help cowboys up and out intact. It takes quick thinking, quick acting, and a selfless commitment to the safety of the participants. “J.D. is all about cowboy protection,” Jerry says.
Jerry has provided the livestock for the event from the beginning. Bulls, calves, and horses come from Jerry’s stock. Brett Tonozzi provides team-roping cattle. “We wanted to have a high quality rodeo and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Jerry says. “Our stock is award winning in the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association, and in The Wyoming Pro Association. The cowboys appreciate a good animal.”
“Rough stock is my favorite,” Jerry admits. This would be the bucking horses and bulls. “But it takes all aspects of competion to make a rodeo.” The rest of the events draw plenty of enthusiastic participants and fans. Mutton busting is always a favorite, with kids riding sheep to the delight of the crowd. And it’s not just a male sport. “Usually the women will do roping and barrel racing, although every now and then we’ll have a woman in the rough stock events, especially when they are younger – junior bull riding up until they are 15 years old.”
Roping events include tie down roping, breakaway roping, ribbon roping, and team roping. These are technically difficult, taking precision riding and rope-handling along with physical agility and strength.
Barrel racing is about split-second communication between rider and mount. “Saddle horse riders love these animals as much as their own children,” Jerry says.
And it’s the animals that are the key to a successful rodeo. A bucking horse can enter the ring at about 4 years old, and will be able to compete for as long as 20 years, while bulls tend to slow down at about 10 years of age. When not in the ring, and when they are retired, they are well fed and well cared for. They don’t buck because they are mad, it’s inbred. “We have a ‘born to buck’ breeding program for rough stock,” Jerry says. He works closely on this with his son Bryce, who has been involved in the business as he was growing up, and stayed on for love of the sport. “It’s a family business. We’ve found a way to make it work all these years. It may have been struggle sometimes, and hard work. But I’m one the people living my dream.”
Fruita Rimrock Rodeo has drawn a devoted following over the years. Live broadcasts can be heard on local radio stations and seen on Channel 5. Over the years the venue, Rimrock Adventures owned by Allin Baier, has added lights and other amenities for the thousand-plus spectators who come out on any given Tuesday evening. I intend to be one of them this summer. Join me for an evening of true western Colorado sport!
To enter call 970.434.7515 Monday between 6-8 p.m.
Tickets at the gate are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors.
Save by buying in advance at Fruita Co-Op or Rimrock Adventures.
Kids 11 and under are always free.
Published with permission of Grand Valley Magazine