Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hailey rodeo a success, but changes in the wind

Ted Uhrig to retire as arena director

It didn’t really matter if you were a hometown cowboy or a professional bullrider—there just weren’t many eight-second rides during Hailey’s Days of the Old West rodeo last week. Out of 38 cowboys in the rodeo performances, only six bulls were successfully ridden for points. Hometown bullriders didn’t fare much better. Here, Cody Fitch doesn’t last too long as the first daredevil on the July 2 Family Night rodeo. Photo by David N. Seelig

There's no question Hailey's Days of the Old West rodeo is one of the most successful in terms of spectators and gate on the Idaho Cowboys Association (ICA) and Intermountain Professional Rodeo Association (IMPRA) circuit each year.

Thousands of Fourth of July rodeo fans pile into Hailey Rodeo Arena for the three holiday performances presented by the Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club. This year's 61st annual Days of Old West with its perfect summer weather was no exception.

But changes are in store for the rodeo staged by the Sawtooth Rangers since 1948.

For one thing, longtime arena director Ted Uhrig, 75, of Shoshone has announced he is retiring from that job. Uhrig has helped Days of the Old West receive the distinction of "Rodeo of the Year," from the IMPRA Cowboys Association for three consecutive years.

"It's time," said Ted's wife Maxine on Monday. "Ted has loved the work and he loves the rodeo. But he's done it for so many years. He's tired, and it's time to let someone else do it."

Another sign of changes to come: The Rangers have only two more years left on the three-year Hailey Rodeo Arena lease extension they received from the city of Hailey last year; and stock producer Red Eye Rodeo Co. has only two years left on its stock contract with the Days of the Old West, sources close to the rodeo said.

The economy and fuel prices have already taken their toll on rodeo cowboys and cowgirls this year. Days of the Old West provides one good example.

In part because of the formation of a new Utah rodeo assocation and in large part because of gasoline prices, Days of the Old West entries were down considerably, 366 this year compared to 446 last July.

Team ropers and breakaway ropers were down the most, from 73 teams in 2007 to 50 team roping teams this time around, and from 81 breakaway ropers last year to 61 this year. Bullriders were up the most, from 25 to 38 this year—although there were only six bulls successfully ridden for time in three rodeo shows, out of 38.

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