For as long as most barrel racers in the Mountain States Circuit can remember, the first weekend in June has signified the start of summer kicked off by Elizabeth Stampede festivities at picturesque Casey Jones Park in Elizabeth, Colorado. What’s changing is that the town of Elizabeth is growing at a fast pace, attracting city folks from nearby Denver and other urban centers who seek a quieter lifestyle. In fact, the city of Elizabeth’s website predicts that Elbert County’s population is expected to increase from approximately 26,000 to roughly 56,000 in 2040, a projected population increase of 30,000.
After barrel racing slack on June 5, Barrel Racing Magazine caught up with Stampede President Traci McClain, herself a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racer, to learn more about not only the steps taken by the Elizabeth Committee to redo their ground in 2022, but other initiatives they promote throughout the year to improve life for people outside of the rodeo arena. In the course of that conversation, we learned a lot about how this award-winning small rodeo committee’s impact stretches into their community to help bridge the all-too-common gap that exists between rural and urban viewpoints.
Check out Part 2 of our conversation with Elizabeth Stampede President Traci McClain below, and don’t miss Part 1, Elizabeth Rodeo Remix: Reconditioned Ground at the Stampede Earns Rave Reviews.
BRM: How do you describe the impact this MSC rodeo produces in your local community?
McClain: “This was our 35th anniversary as a PRCA rodeo and 58th year as a rodeo. 2020 was the only year since World War II that we haven’t had a rodeo. We’re the largest event in Elbert County so the rodeo’s economic footprint in our community is significant. We bring in sponsors from all over who want to be part of this community and this effort.
“There is a lot of growth in the area, and I know a lot of people are unhappy about that, but the way we look at it is a lot of people are moving out here from the city and they don’t understand our Western way of life. We’re at that junction, that crossroads between the Western way of life and where they sit, so this is our opportunity to educate and to help people see and understand how well we care for our animal athletes.
“There’s so much misinformation out there, which is why we do our Behind the Chutes Tour; it’s why we provide educational information on our website and why we have our Stampede to Read campaign. Stampede to Read is just a reading program in all the area schools, but I’ve got a cool story about its impact. We went to the Meat-In event here in March and a woman came by our booth and said, ‘Oh, you’re the Stampede to Read people!’ We told her that yes, that’s one thing we do. She went on to share with us that her grandson lived with her and that he hated to read because it was very hard for him. However, when her grandson learned that he could win a rodeo ticket through Stampede to Read, he became so excited and began reading every night, grabbing his grandma and asking her to read with him. She shared that his cognition went through the roof, and he began loving to read. He earned his ticket and was able to go to the rodeo. So, not only do you have the satisfaction of helping a kid, but the entire family comes to the rodeo with them and through that process you’re able to expose more people to the sport. We’re really focused on working with our youth. We sponsor of the Eastern Plains High School Rodeo Club; we sponsor kids to attend rough stock school. We know that we must really look to the future of rodeo so we don’t lose our sport.”
“It’s an awesome committee with awesome volunteers. What a great rodeo with all the trimmings, including the new ground! I just love this rodeo.”2022 Elizabeth Stampede champion barrel racer and BarrelRacing.com coach Kelly Yates
BRM: How many people comprise the Elizabeth Rodeo Committee, how long have you been on the committee and how does the committee work to pull this rodeo off?
McClain: “We have a board of nine directors, then we have 17 committee chairs. All totaled it’s right around 250 volunteers. This is my 13th year of volunteering, my eighth year on the board and my second year as president.
“This year, we knew we needed a better volunteer management system for keeping track of who worked where. It’s kind of funny how it all played out, but years ago I had chatted with a guy on the Reno Rodeo Committee at the PRCA Convention about how they managed volunteers. This guy was also a software engineer like I am, and he was telling me about this system he was writing for their committee. This past year I’d been thinking a lot about our need for a better volunteer management system because just handing out spreadsheets wasn’t working. I found the Reno Rodeo Committee out at the Convention and talked to them again, and Troy Gardner wasn’t there, but they gave me his number so in January, I texted him. Long story short, we have purchased the system and he’s making modifications to fit us since we’re smaller than Reno. We’re a test and we are so excited. The volunteer management system is called R.I.D.E. (Rodeo Information Database Environment).”
BRM: Switching gears a little bit, how has adding breakaway roping been received at your rodeo?
McClain: “We’re very excited about having the breakaway. It was a big hit with the spectators last year and has been again this year. Right from the start we’ve had equal money. We said if we’re going to do it, we’re treating breakaway ropers just the same as the rodeo athletes in the other events. Last year we didn’t know how many we’d get, because so few rodeos were running. We were worried about our slack running right up until the start of our performance, so we limited the number of entries, but this year we decided not to limit the numbers.”
Check out the Breakaway results HERE.