"The country has gone sane and got back to horses," Will Rogers wrote on May 12, 1933 in the New York Times. The same could be said of Ted Uhrig back in the saddle for the Fourth of July rodeo.
Uhrig, 72, founded the rodeo back in 1947 and, along with his prodigious family, was at the helm for every Fourth of July show until 1987. This spring he was approached by the Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club (another organization he started back in 1947) about taking the rodeo's reins once again.
"They asked if we would give them a hand," Uhrig remarked. "And we're enjoying every minute of it."
As the arena director, Uhrig oversees all the details that go into creating a top-notch event, which the uninitiated fan can take for granted.
In the last couple of months, Uhrig, with the help of his wife of 52 years, Maxine, has lined up the timers, judges, announcer, bullfighters, and arranged lodging for them, which is no easy feat on a holiday weekend in the Wood River Valley.
This year's rodeo, which takes place on July 2, 3 and 4 returns to its roots as a semi-professional event sanctioned by the Intermountain Professional Rodeo Association and Idaho Cowboys Association.
At various times, including the early days, the Hailey event has been a pro rodeo, but with an overabundance of events over the holiday weekend, commonly known as "Cowboy Christmas," Hailey was too far off the circuit to draw in the top competitors.
Bob Hoffman, vice-president of the Sawtooth Rangers, remarked,
"With the conversion, we will be getting the top end of the IMPRA riders, instead of the bottom end of the pro riders. We just weren't getting the quality we wanted and rather than stick it out for 10 years, we went back to what was successful."
With the reputation as one of the finest rodeos in the state and a return to the IMPRA/ICA fold, Uhrig estimates 400 to 500 competitors for this weekend's three-day tilt.
"The IMPRA has 1,500 members and we draw from all over the region: Idaho, Utah, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming and Washington," Uhrig stated. "We will have cowboys coming out of our ears. The more contestants the more prize money."
The Sawtooth Rangers decided on a new stock contractor this year, Jay Hogan's Red Eye Rodeo Company out of Terreton, Idaho, which provided the livestock for last week's Idaho High School Rodeo Finals in Pocatello.
Both Uhrig and the Sawtooth Rangers wanted to make the rodeo a more family-oriented event, so they have introduced events like mutton bustin' and donkey calf roping for the kids. Ticket prices have also been slashed and are available for purchase at Atkinson Markets in Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue.
"There's an excitement this year," Hoffman said. "We have new sponsors and sponsors that have returned because they want to be part of the rodeo again."
"I'm excited," Uhrig said. "We're getting the grounds spruced up and it's been a fun deal with the boys and Maxine all involved and old friends back to help. It's going to be a big weekend."
Hailey's Days of the Old West Rodeo will take place Saturday, Sunday and Monday with performances starting at 7 p.m. Saturday's slack performance begins at 9 a.m.