Cowboy Christmas in July at the Western Stampede
Seven-year-old Hayden Peak student Kaden Guymon won first place in Saturday night’s mutton bustin’ competition. (Natalie Conforto/City Journals)
Gallery: Cowboy Christmas [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
What could entice dozens of athletes from around the world to travel to West Jordan to ride an enraged, bucking bull? Cha-ching.
For these cowboys, it’s all about the Benjamins, as about $60,000 total was up for grabs in prize money at the Western Stampede this July. Rodeo enthusiasts call Independence Day weekend “Cowboy Christmas” for its multiplicity of rodeos—opportunities to win some serious cash.
In his welcome statement, Mayor Kim Rolfe described how thrilling it is just to sit in the stands at the rodeo.
“If you’re a repeat rodeo goer, you know the excitement that’s in store as top-ranked cowboys and cowgirls test their skills against some of the best bucking stock in the business,” he said.
Although a successful bull or bronco ride only lasts eight seconds, audiences held their breath to see the bone-crushing power of the animals as their riders gripped for dear life. More than 8,000 fans arrived to witness and yee-haw or gasp at the spectacle during the three-day event this year.
Rivaling the professional contestants’ anxiety behind the corral, the mutton busters and their parents lined up for their chance at glory. The pint-sized contestants had to weigh less than 50 pounds, because they would be riding sheep. They ranged in age from 3–9.
Tensions were high as Niki George waited with her 8-year-old daughter Sarah for her turn. Waiting seemed to make everyone—especially the parents—more nervous, and question why they signed up in the first place. But the kids were still excited. George said, “She’s a little nervous—she just wants to go.”
After ensuring that each youngster was properly outfitted in pads and a safety helmet, officials placed them on a sheep, which immediately took off running. Contestants scored points for how long they lasted on the sheep, crowd noise and general style. Sarah George surprised everyone by choosing to ride backward, which earned her some extra style points.
When 7-year-old Kaden Guymon hit the arena on Saturday night, he wasn’t letting go. The crowd began to roar as the sheep and tiny rider streaked all the way across the stampede grounds. By the time they reached the opposite fence, the audience was on its feet to cheer the young cowboy. Kaden finally fell off when the sheep had nowhere else to go.
Guymon’s dad thought he might have gone farther if the fence weren’t in the way.
“This is his first rodeo,” he said, delighted when Kaden was announced as the winner for the night.
Kaden didn’t seem surprised by his victory.
“It felt really good,” he said. “I wasn’t scared because the wool just felt really poofy like a pillow, so I got comfortable, and I just could ride.”
The final heat for mutton bustin’ took place two days later. Two cowgirls—who also served as junior rodeo princesses—owned the top of the podium. The champion was Laynee Garduon, second place went to Libby Gedge, and Aiden Chase took third. The top three won large trophies and a voucher from Justin, an event sponsor, for a pair of Justin cowboy boots.
Libby’s father, Nate Gedge, explained how the training sessions went.
“We don’t have any farm animals, so she would jump on her older siblings’ backs and they would mimic sheep actions,” he said.
White-knuckle endurance tests and miniature riders weren’t the only crowd pleasers at the rodeo. Cassie Wasmer and her daughters’ favorite event was the all-female barrel racing, in which riders have to guide their horses in tight turning patterns around barrels. Kamree added that the EHCAPA bareback riders (8–19 year old girls) “looked so pretty” in their Native American-inspired fringed suede costumes.
Local preteen Tyler Anderson said, “I liked when they roped the cattle and then tied them up.” His parents Brian and Lisa said they weren’t rodeo regulars, and that they attended the Western Stampede because “it’s just something to do.” They said they ended up having a fun time.
Whether you own a cowboy hat or not, there was something for everyone at the Western Stampede.