The rodeo started out in the 1800’s between spring calving and summer haying, a time when area ranchers took a break to test their skills with riding and roping contests on Main Street. In the early years, the event added horse races and tried out various names such as Pioneer Days and the Helldorado Stampede. By 1901, the celebration came under the sponsorship of the Gunnison Valley Stockgrowers Association and the rodeo officially adopted the name “Cattlemen’s Days.”
Between 1913 and 1928, the rodeo and race events moved to the campus of Colorado Normal School, now Western State Colorado University, using the school’s track and stands. The celebration moved back downtown from 1929 to 1936. When the Cattlemen’s Days Association was created, it built facilities at the current site.
Messages from Past Presidents
Please Send In Cattlemen’s Days Memorabilia!
Cattlemen’s Days has been a big part of Gunnison heritage for over 100 years. We are looking for historical photos, videos, and personal recollections of past Cattlemen’s Days events to feature on this page. There is so much to share! Were you in the parade? Did you or your kids participate in 4-H events? Did you watch a friend get bucked off in mutton bustin’ or a bull ride? We want to hear about it! Please send photos and stories along with photo credit by filling in the form below.
Thanks for your help! We look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you to Megan for sending in these terrific Sweetheart of the Rodeo photos.
Eileen McCartney was my beautiful grandmother and 1950 Sweetheart of the Rodeo. After my grandfather recently passed away, I was given several photographs, this one being my all time favorite since I was a little girl. As Cattlemen’s Days gets closer, this photo sparked my interest in looking through the website and I was excited to see your request for historical Cattleman’s days photos!
Thank you to John Whitten for sending in this beauty!
Hello Folks from Jacksonville, FL!,
I am sending some pics of a Cattlemen’s Day Button from 1913. I hope you like it, it measures about 2 1/4 inches across and was made by Whitehead & Hoag, Newark, NJ, back in the day!
The Gunnison County Library Archive
Cattlemen’s Days Memorabilia. Please see their archive here.
Peering Back In History
Cattlemen’s Days to be Digitized
Article Courtesy of the Gunnison Country Times 2016 Cattlemen’s Days Special Edition
by Bobby Reyes
The long, rich history of Cattlemen’s Days just got more accessible. While tales of the rodeo have been passed down through stories and in the papers, now they’ll be digitized for history buffs.
Nancy Barnes Trimm, who is the executive director at the Gunnison County Library, has been leading the charge in collecting years worth of photos and programs of Cattlemen’s Days history.
“There’s been a need for libraries to digitize their unique local collections,” Trimm explained. So what better place to start than Gunnison’s most historical event — Cattlemen’s Days.
“There’s such a strong ranching history in Gunnison,” Trimm explained.
While there’s much appeal in digitizing the 116-year event, it’s not without some effort. “We’ve broken the project into three phases,” Trimm explained of the process. “We’re currently digitizing 2000-2016.”
With so many years to look back through, the project will take time, though Trimm looks for the first phase of the project to be live in time for the 2016 edition of Cattlemen’s Days.
“The goal is to have all of those images searchable in our online catalogue,” Trimm explained. “This is really a way to preserve the rich history of Cattlemen’s.”
While the goal is to preserve history, helping with the collecting and digging is Margo Patton-Blair, who is already a piece of Cattlemen’s history.
Nearly 15 years ago Patton-Blair was crowned Cattlemen’s Day Queen, now she’s the first female president of Cattlemen’s Days.
“Nancy came to me with the idea and I immediately loved it,” Patton-Blair shared. “There’s so much history in Cattlemen’s and it’d be really cool to get it all out there for the public.”
Among some of the most unique parts of looking back in history has been seeing a string of families involved throughout the years.
“Cattlemen’s wouldn’t be what it is without the generations of families coming together,” Patton-Blair explained. “It’s always been a family event.”
For Trimm, seeing the tradition that is Cattlemen’s Days has been the most revealing.
“It’s been really unique seeing the relationships span the years,” Trimm said. “Some families have been part of Cattlemen’s since the beginning.”
In her research Trimm has stumbled across a variety of former royalty with family ties to parade marshals or even competitors.
“It’s really a testament to the long standing tradition of Cattlemen’s Days,” Trimm said.
For Patton-Blair, looking back has been helpful in planning for the future of the event.
“It’s been really neat to look back and see how much things have changed,” Patton-Blair said.
Of the many things that Patton-Blair has seen transform is women’s involvement in the event.
“Now there are a whole handful of women that are part of this,” Patton-Blair said. “Things have changed, and it’s really fun to see.”
While peering back in the time capsule of Cattlemen’s Days history is revealing, Patton-Blair is aware that she’s making history that will one day be part of it.
“It is really cool to think about it like that,” Patton-Blair acknowledged of her historical presence as the first female president. “We’re making history as we go. I just love to tell these young women that you can make history if you keep working at it.”
And as the project adds more years to the catalog, more work must be done.
While most of phase one is nearly complete — each year Trimm dives back, the harder it gets to find photos and brochures of the event.
“We do have a lot in our historical files,” Trimm explained. “But we’re always looking for more. We would love to scan old documents that anyone has to add to the collection.”