Rodeo series targets midweek tourists

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Greg Wellens of Adventures Out West (in a rodeo barrel) and announcer Dusty Lane plan for a midweek attraction.

Rodeo fans — mount up!

Colorado Springs will be home to a new, summer-long rodeo series — the Colorado Springs Rodeo Summer Series Open — launching June 15 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. The event will take place Wednesdays from June through August, excluding Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days.

The series is a product of Adventures Out West, which already caters to regional tourists with activities including hot air balloon rides, Jeep tours and hiking treks.

Greg Wellens, owner of Adventures Out West, said the rodeo grew out of discussions about stretching tourism spending in the summer.

“The average [tourist] stay is about 1.8 nights. We need to grow that to 2.8 nights,” Wellens said. “How do we do that? By creating opportunities on off nights, like a Wednesday — not Saturday, not Memorial Day weekend, not Labor Day weekend.”

Tourists using Denver as a hub are particularly likely to leave after a single day trip to the Springs, he said.

“They come down and drive through the Garden of the Gods or they go up Pikes Peak and then they go back to Denver,” he said. The rodeo should target some of those mid-week dollars, he said.

‘A true taste’

Chelsy Offutt, director of communications with the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is helping promote the event, said the rodeo provides more targeted marketing opportunities for the bureau.

“This is an exciting new option, especially for our group markets like youth groups and reunions,” she said. “It’s fantastic to have an entire turnkey event that offers food, entertainment and a true taste of Colorado history. Greg’s concept is unique since he is implementing elements from Adventures Out West like Segways, fire pits and balloon glows. We’re excited to market the new summer evening activity to leisure, group and business travelers as well as locals.”

Offutt said it’s too early to tell how successful Adventures Out West might become.

“Honestly, we can’t make any predictions as we have no baseline for the event,” she said. “In terms of any attendance to attractions or events, we rely heavily on those representing them.”

Wellens said he coordinated a dress rehearsal last month for a limited number of community members and more than 200 people showed up. He said he would like 500 people to attend on opening night and 1,000 each week once the event stabilizes.

Get that buckle

For $34 for adults and a family rate of $99 for two adults and two kids, visitors can make reservations for a chuck wagon dinner, with most events included — a bounce house, a petting zoo and Segway barrel racing, as well as the rodeo. Wellens said there will be a campfire and s’mores for roasting, as well as a band and a bar.

For an additional fee, attendees can participate in rodeo events, to include mutton busting, calf and ram scrambles and steer riding.

The event will also be home to the Arctic Spas Bull Riding Buckle Series Championship, which will pay out $500 to the top three winners each week.

“You don’t need a Pro Rodeo Championship card,” Wellens said, adding locals will likely make up a portion of the crowd, and tourists are expected to drive spending.

“We need locals to make it a success,” he said. “The locals are the athletes, but the tourist is the focus.”

The loss of Flying W Ranch to the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 stripped the area of some of its Western heritage, Wellens said.

“I think it’s filling a spot they left behind,” he said. “That space was left vacant and we’re trying to bring it back. We needed something like this going on in town — that Western culture and heritage. It needs to be present and accounted for.”

He said, as Denver has rapidly been inundated with non-native species, its Western culture is increasingly watered down.

“Denver’s Western heritage? Gone,” he said. “That’s why you need to come here to get it.”