The Black Mountain Junior Rodeo started in Craig about five years ago when Lorrae Moon was looking for an event where youths could learn rodeo at their own pace.
Barrels, poles and flags were fine for starters, but to keep the boys interested, there needed to be some roping events, so calf roping and goat tying were added.
"It wasn't hard at all," Moon said. "We wanted to do an event with no points tallied, so they could learn as they go."
That is especially important when some of the contestants can be as young as 2-year-olds, and can barely reach the stirrups on their horses.
Moon said that with a great deal of help from her husband, Lewis, and friends Jennifer and Gary Stagner, the non-profit rodeo is self-sufficient today.
The rodeo features break-away calf roping, where the rope pulls away from the horse so the calf never gets jerked to a halt when the rope comes tight, and goat tying, where a goat is tied in the center of the arena, and the rider has to ride out, throw the goat to the ground and tie the feet.
Barrel racing has riders doing a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels, and pole bending involves weaving a horse through a slalom course of poles twice, and returning to the start.
The flag race has the horse and rider stabbing a flag into a bucket of oats, hoping the horse won't be distracted by the feed, then grabbing a flag from a second bucket and returning to the start.
The Wednesday rodeos draw children from towns as distant as Oak Creek, Hahn's Peak and Savery, Wyo., as well as Craig and Steamboat Springs.
Averaging about 35 children each Wednesday night from the time school lets out until the Moffat County Fair, even high school youths use the event to keep in practice between rodeos.
"The smallest riders can be led through an event with a by a person or from horseback," Moon said.
The rodeos run from 6;30 until 9:30 on Wednesdays, and the cost is $5 for each event entered. A yearly membership fee of $25 is required for each rider. Livestock events cost a few dollars more.
All of the money collected is returned to the children in the form of prizes, from belt buckles to spurs or blankets bearing the words, "Black Mountain Junior Rodeo."
"It's a good place for kids to gain confidence and to learn how to ride," Melody Villard said. "There are easier rules and regulations. You can even lead the kids through."
Seven-year-old Mattie Duzik was at the Wednesday night rodeo with her horse Guster. She said she has been riding three years.
"I'm just having fun," Duzik said. "We're entered in all of the events except the break-away."
Her favorite event is the barrels, and she thinks that her horse likes that event too.
"He does pretty good in that," she said.
Dianne Brannan and her husband, Gary, have been supplying stock for the Wednesday rodeos since they began.
They brought 12 calves and 5 goats to the rodeo this week. Their daughter, Tia, was at Wednesday's rodeo.
"We've been hauling our girls to rodeos for 26 years," Diane said. "I did Little Britches here for 25 years. I just like it."
Even though her daughters are grown up now, they all still rodeo.
Every age rider was represented at this week's rodeo.
Dakota Ahlstrom, 9, attended her one this week.
"I've been riding since I was 2," Ahlstrom said. "My dad put me on my first horse. Tonight I'm just having fun."
Moon said the organizers give out $3,500 in prizes at the end of the season. Those who show up regularly to rodeos throughout the summer will receive an award.
"You can miss two rodeos a season, and still get a prize at the end of the year," Moon said. "We had a girl who was in 4-H for 11 years and never won a buckle. She was so happy to leave here with one."
Moon said the best part of the rodeo, is that it's a confidence-builder for the children.
"It gives them something to be proud of," she said.
Young riders and their parents are invited to show up on Wednesday evenings. Call Moon at 824-9568 for more information.
Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or email@example.com.