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Bah, Humbug

6/23/2005

What's in a name? It depends who's at the other end of the question.

On one hand, officials with the Greeley (Colo.) Independence Stampede last year felt ready to take the lucrative and world-famous event to the next level by taking out the word Greeley and renaming the event the Rocky Mountain Stampede.

Meanwhile, city officials didn't think that was such a good idea.

So, when rodeo festivities launch on Monday, they will be for the Greeley Independence Stampede.

Again. For the next 20 years, anyway.

"It was very important to us that Greeley is part of the rodeo name," Greeley Mayor Tom Selders said. "I understand what they were doing, which is to expand on the area. But look at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days. It's a huge event, but it still has Cheyenne in it. Our event for over 80 years has involved a tremendous volunteer effort, and it was important to keep them involved in it in Greeley."

Recently, the rodeo committee signed a 20-year agreement to continue operating at the city-owned Island Grove Regional Park, with several improvement projects in the works. In exchange for using the facility, the rodeo reverted back to the name it has had since 1972.

From an image standpoint, Stampede marketing director Justin Watada supported the change from tradition. After all, only 30 percent of annual ticket sales actually came from Greeley, so a push for regional recognition was paramount in today's increasing demand for the entertainment dollar.

"Competition these days is pretty fierce," Watada said. "The initial thing was to change the name to the Rocky Mountain Stampede and gain a more regional view from everyone. But the city got a little angry with us."

That anger, according to Selders, could have been avoided with a two-way line of communication.

"They made the name change without any community discussion," Selders said. "And it was rejected by the community. It came as a surprise to everybody."

Selders doesn't hold a grudge against the committee. He looks forward to attending the eight-day rodeo, a stop on the Wrangler Summer ProRodeo Tour and the largest in terms of prize money during the Fourth of July run, also known as Cowboy Christmas.

"I see this event as an important part of the region," Selders said. "That's why the park is Island Grove Regional Park. I know we're competing with other businesses in Northern Colorado."

And with the rodeo creeping ever closer, that means less and less sleep for Watada, who previously served as the committee's director of sales the past two years. Besides playing host to the top names in ProRodeo, the Stampede also has the top names in entertainment, including country icons Brooks and Dunn headlining a list of performers over the 11-day festival.

"Rodeo is still the main bloodline here," Watada said. "But we've gotten a lot of press from the shows, too. It's been pretty hectic lately, and it will get even busier, I'm sure."