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Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo bonds people together

Sense of community at rodeo inspires Cortez business owners attending Friday’s event
The bronco looks back at Bailey Benchs while trying to buck him off during the Friday night Ute Mountain Roundup. (Sam Green/Special to the Journal)

CORTEZ – Thick gray clouds and a light breeze gave rodeo fans relief from the heat on Friday night, as they flooded into the Montezuma County Fairgrounds for the second night of the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo.

The sport has always been about family and community, so it was only fitting that the UMR honored Bob Banks, whose memory the arena is named after, by presenting 32 of Banks’ family members with the Western Heritage Award.

Families and community inspire George Tobias, vice president and co-owner of Frazier Shows, the carnival that accompanies the rodeo. While he enjoys rodeo culture, it’s really all about bringing joy to his clients.

“It’s an amazing job. The rewards are endless,” Tobias said. “To be able to see kids grow each year, and they do they grow, I see a lot of the same kids, and to make sure that the rides are safe, and to just watch the community let their hair down, have a little fun, get away from the normal grind and to be able to do it for an economical price is just amazing, its hard to put into words.”

For Cortez veterinary technician Kacey Lockhart, one of the rodeo committee’s volunteers, rodeo is also about values.

“It’s very family-oriented, it’s very godly-oriented. There’s a cowboy code that goes way back, and it’s all about doing what’s right, being a good person, standing up for what you believe in, helping one another, and being kind to your friends and neighbors,” she said. “Every contestant here, you can just see that they love and have passion for being here.”

Hadley Durell, a bar manager at Blondie’s, has been working the bar tent at the UMR for six years, and she’s also noticed the integrity of the event.

“I’ve never seen a fight break out. I’ve never seen anything negative, really. It’s always been a super positive and upbeat experience,” she said.

Durell, who was born and raised in Cortez, enjoys seeing people come together for the event.

“You can tell that the rodeo every year kind of brings people together, it’s kind of a bonding thing, I would say for the town,” she said.

For local business owner Toni Smith, it all began at the rodeo.

Smith, who grew up barrel racing in Cortez, sold homemade jewelry at the rodeos she competed in to make a little extra money.

Today, she is the owner of Patina Trails Mercantile, a rodeo sponsor and vendor for the second year running.

Smith and her company source almost all of their materials locally – silver from San Juan Gems and stones from a mine owner in Mancos.

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