Estes Park Archives – The Rooftop Rodeo

The true early history of Estes Park rodeos is a bit unsteady, as two early Rooftop Rodeo programs from 1946 and 1966 attest. Photo courtesy Estes Park Archives

How the Rooftop went from Estes Park's sixth annual rodeo in 1946 to its fortieth annual rodeo in 1966, just twenty years later, is a funny story, one that the Estes Park Archives will recount this Saturday, May 15, at its free weekly program at 240 Moraine Avenue.

Estes Park has been holding rodeos since before it voted to become a town, so for over 100 years. But these rodeos were initially sporadic, and sponsored by a variety of different organizations, including outside entities, until a level of professionalism and organizational stability emerged in 1941, when the Estes Park Rodeo Association was officially incorporated.

Sadly, America's entry into the war interrupted their grand plans for growing the Rooftop Rodeo (initially called the Rooftop Roundup) into the premier event is has become, so only in 1946 did it become a true “annual” event, meaning occurring once a year, and returning every year without interruption.

We will discuss the Rodeo Association's fateful decision in 1953 to lump rodeos held prior to 1941 into the “official” Rooftop Rodeo count, with no attempt to meticulously determine when or how many rodeos this involved. A wild guess led to the assignment of 1953 as the 26th Annual [sic] Rooftop Rodeo, and an implied start of the rodeo back to a year (1928) no rodeo was held.

When the committee was finally (partially) convinced of the error of their ways in 1958, they figured the most expedient way to fix the problem was to jump the counter ahead two places instead of one, because a rodeo had been held in 1927. Thus, the 1957 Rooftop was referred to as the 30th annual Rooftop Rodeo, and the 1959 Rooftop as the 33rd annual Rooftop Rodeo.

Yet all of these numbers are pure fantasy to those who value history. Sadly, there is no way to fix the past, but it is important to accurately itemize, beyond 1960, when the “Xth Annual Rooftop Rodeo” was held, because plenty of photographs and programs are out there with no assigned year, just an assigned “semi-arbitrary” Rooftop Rodeo count that corresponds to a particular date.

Beginning in May, the 45-minute Archives programs will be held at 1:00 p.m. and again at 2:00 p.m., with capacity restricted to six individuals spread out around a 14-foot conference table. It is now far enough along in the availability of COVID-19 vaccines that proof of vaccination is strongly encouraged to attend. All who have been vaccinated are welcome, but remember that, rain or shine, the back window and front door will remain open to provide circulation, and above-the-nose masks are still required, so dress accordingly. Please call 586-4889 to make a reservation if you are worried you won't get a spot.

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