Travis Carlson riding bareback bronc at 1996 Greenly Independence. Photo: Dan Hubbell / Greeley Independence Stampede Permanent Collection
Greeley Independence Stampede
What began in the early 1900s as an afternoon rodeo
has evolved into what is heralded as the "World's Largest 4th of
July Rodeo." In 1999, more than 400,000 people attended the 14-day
Greeley Independence Stampede, which includes a professional rodeo;
a parade with a U.S. Air Force flyover; flapjack feed and
watermelon feast; art and antique exhibits; a carnival midway and
amusements; country music, featuring Nashville stars; a demolition
derby, and wrestling. Among rodeo events are a kids/youth rodeo,
steer wrestling, ladies barrel wrestling, a wild horse race,
buffalo race, bareback riding contest, calf roping event, saddle
bronco riding, and team roping. At the stampede's 78th annual
celebration in 2000, June 22 through July 4th, the world's top
cowboys and cowgirls compete for $352,000 in prize money.
The city of Greeley takes its name from Horace
Greeley, the eminent editor-in-chief of the
New York Tribune, who sent his agricultural editor, Nathan Meeker, to
Colorado in 1869 to research a story on farming practices. Meeker
was so impressed with the area that he started a town, at the
junction of Cache la Poudre and South Platte rivers, based on his
idea of Utopia. Within a few years, the population of Greeley Union
Colony had reached 1,200.
Members of the surrounding community were invited to
celebrate Greeley's first Independence Day in 1870 at Island Grove
Regional Park, the city's largest park, which still remains the
festival venue. Early 4th of July festivities included fireworks,
bicycle and auto races, boxing matches, and foot races. Today the
park, which lies beside the Cache la Poudre River is 102 acres, and
includes a sports arena, stadium, and activities pavilion. In 1995,
the arena's $4.1 million expansion was completed, increasing its
capacity to 9,500 people for rodeos and 15,000 for concerts.
Greely Spud Days, the Independence Day Celebration
that also honored the area's main cash crop, began in 1906, and
continued during the war years. In 1918, a 2,500 person parade
attracted 10,000 spectators. In 1922, Spud Days was officially
named the Greeley 4th of July Celebration and the Spud Rodeo and
Horseshow. That year 2,500 attendees came. Free events included
bucking bronco riding, fancy roping, pie eating contest, a horse
race, and motorcycle and bicycle races, and a Ford car race. The
chamber of commerce took over the successful event as a community
all volunteer project the next year.
In 1925, the Spud Rodeo became more professional with
the addition of Ivan "Jack" Elliott's Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo.
He also convinced top cowboys to attend and perform along side
local ranch hands. In 1927, steer wrestling was introduced, and
attracted 30,000 people. In 1930, rodeo queens were selected to
help promote the event. By 1945, the rodeo was sanctioned by the
Rodeo Cowboy Association (RCA), precursor to the Professional Rodeo
Cowboy Association (PRCA).
In 1947 entry fees were $25 per rodeo event, and
purses were $400, with a $100 silver anniversary bonus. The five
standard RCA events were Bareback, Bronco and Brahma Bull Riding;
Calf Roping; and Steer Wrestling. Specialty events included a Wild
Horse Race and Wild Cow Milking contest. That same year, to attract
national attention, the rodeo's name was changed to "Go West with
In 1955, chariot races and ladies barrel racing were
added, and the purse had reached $7,000. As the reputation of the
rodeo was growing, attracting world and event champions, ticket
prices were kept affordable for families. A Queen's Ball was added
in 1968, which became the kick-off event. By 1969, the rodeo had
become a national event, with a $5,750 purses. In 1971, a name
contest netted "The Greeley Stampede" to reflect the national
festivity, which has become the ninth largest year round PRCA
rodeo. Since 1972 top entertainment, such as Loretta Lynn, Pat
Boone, Buck Owens, George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Glen Campbell,
Doc Severinson, Reba McEntire, Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, and
Faith Hill have performed at the stampede. The festival has also
added classic rock concerts to its musical line-up.
The Greeley Independence Stampede was recognized as a
premier event by the International Festival and Events Association,
which bestowed its annual Gold Grand Pinnacle Award in 1999, and
the American Bus Association rated it as one of North America's Top
100 Events in 1998 and 1999.
Documentation comprises a 75th anniversary
commemorative book, nomination material and photographs, a video
promotion, and a ESPN 1999 video.
Originally submitted by: Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.