Approaching the term-limited end of a dusty four-year trail as president of the Evergreen Rodeo Association, local Bob Benefiel is content.
“I think I’ve done some good for the rodeo,” says Bob, plainly. “It’s what I love.”
The Colorado native came by his liking for livestock the honest way. Growing up in the Commerce City area, Bob was the energetic son of a clan with close ties to the soil. But where many of his kin turned their hands to the plow, Bob’s tastes ran to ranching.
“We had ponies as a kid, and it kind of grew from there,” he explains. “I worked on a lot of farms when I was a kid because I love the land, and I’d do anything to work outside. But I’ve always liked being around animals, cattle and horses, and I started working in dairies and cattle ranches around Brighton.”
As a brash young man with a hankering for horses and growing mastery of the ranching arts, it was only a matter of time before Bob graduated from wrangling cattle to riding them. He soon became a regular on the Front Range rodeo circuit.
“I rode bareback, bulls mostly” he says. “But I don’t compete anymore. I twisted a vertebra in my back and decided it was more important to walk than to ride bulls.”
It’s worth noting that if Bob didn’t make his fortune as a buckaroo, as a professional mechanic he’s always made a good living through horsepower. Still, for a veteran vaquero with cowboy in his blood, the rodeo was more important than anything. Far from surrendering the arena to the next generation of bronco busters, Bob simply found other ways to support the sport.
“I worked the chutes, fed the livestock, cleaned stalls – anything that needed to be done,” he smiles. “Just like I do now.”
Bob’s ride to the Evergreen Rodeo Grounds started long ago and followed a path familiar to most Evergreen residents. He fell in love with the area as a visitor, started spending more and more of his free hours hereabouts, and 10 years ago decided to stake his claim amid the pines of Brook Forest. He and his wife keep horses there, which he takes pleasure in riding for longer than eight seconds at a time. And it doesn’t hurt that Evergreen hosts what Bob considers one of the best rodeos between the Sierras and San Antone.
“The Evergreen Rodeo is just the right size. It’s a small-town rodeo where you can meet your neighbors and see the sweat on the riders’ faces. You can get to know the competitors on a first-name basis, and that makes it more exciting. It’s a friendly, face-to-face rodeo.”
Bob’s face has been a familiar one at the east end of Stagecoach Boulevard pretty much from the moment he dropped his saddle in Evergreen. Always ready to pitch in wherever he was needed, four years ago he was elected head of the Evergreen Rodeo Association and that all-volunteer posse has likely never known a more hard-riding trail-boss than Bob Benefiel. While Evergreen’s venerable rodeo has long been one of the area’s most popular parties, it’s generally operated on the red side of the ledger. Bob immediately set his hat to changing that by becoming the event’s tireless champion at home and at large.
Each summer he’s logged many hundreds of miles making the rounds from Cheyenne to Yuma and all points in between, offering his unqualified support to those rodeo organizations and educating them about everything that Evergreen’s association has to offer the ambitious barrel rider and dauntless bronco buster.
“All rodeos work together, and I’ve been promoting our rodeo all over. I’m at somebody’s rodeo just about every weekend.”
And Bob has worked just as hard on the local front, although with a darned-sight less driving.
“One of my main efforts has been to get the Evergreen community more involved in the rodeo,” he explains. “Rodeo is like a family, and I want people to feel like they’re part of the Evergreen Rodeo family.”
Bob’s drive to raise the family-friendly fest’s local profile has taken him from coffee shops, to church meeting rooms, to civic organizations and school classrooms, everywhere sharing the Evergreen rodeo’s honored history and its unique and beneficial role in the mountain community. If that sounds like work, it is and it isn’t. Serving as the sunburned face of Evergreen Rodeo is a demanding avocation, yes, but introducing young Buffalo Bills and Annie Oakleys to the cowpoke’s traditional mode of transportation is more lark than labor.
“I love teaching kids about horses and showing them how to ride,” Bob grins. “I think I enjoy it as much as they do.”
And yet if Bob has spent a month of Sundays sharing the word, he’s even more interested in hearing it.
“I always ask people how we can make the Evergreen Rodeo better. I’ve heard some great ideas, and you’re going to see a lot of those ideas at the rodeo this summer.”
For example, come Fathers Day Weekend the Evergreen Rodeo’s queen and princesses will be guiding personal tours behind the chutes, giving folks a chance to see for themselves the thrills that lie beyond the calico curtain. Many of the rodeo’s star performers will be available to sign autographs, and a new Evergreen Rodeo Association booth will offer guests a rip-snorting account of the event’s long and illustrious past. For his part, Bob will be doing what he does on every Evergreen Rodeo weekend, which is missing most of the action.
“I don’t really see much of the show. I’ll be walking around, meeting people and answering their questions. But that’s really the best part of it for me. You get to meet so many great people.”
Taken together, Bob Benefiel’s efforts and innovations have helped nudge the Evergreen Rodeo back into the black, ensuring that the wild Western celebration won’t be riding into the sunset any time soon.
“This isn’t my rodeo, and it isn’t the association’s rodeo,” he says. “It’s the community’s rodeo and I want people to come and have a ball.”