Rodeo discussion stirs up dust

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Andrew Fischbach and Mike Fudge of the Winter Park Horseman’s Association
Andrew Fischbach and Mike Fudge of the Winter Park Horseman’s Association

by Marissa Lorenz
Andrew Fischbach and Mike Fudge of the Winter Park Horseman’s Association address the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday, expressing concern over a facilities use application and fee waiver application submitted to the County by the Flying Heels Arena Association (FHAA) of Granby.

The WP Horseman’s Association, which operates the High Country Stampede Rodeo in Fraser, noted that the Saturday dates requested by the FHAA overlapped with their historic rodeo dates. And Commissioner Rich Cimino stated, “I am concerned about the effect the dates after the Fourth of July would have on the viability of Fraser’s rodeos.”

Tish Linke, Chair of the FHAA and sister to Commissioner Merrit Linke, protested the Board even spending their time on an issue, when she had properly filled out the County’s own application. “I feel like I am on trial here as organizer of the Flying Heels Rodeo when I have done nothing wrong.”

Then addressing Cimino, who had requested the workshop, Ms. Linke continued, “I think you should have to justify
why we’re even here.”

Throughout the course of the workshop, during which no formal decisions could be made, numerous individuals spoke in support of the Flying Heels application, including a number of rodeo contestants, Lauren Huber, Granby Chamber Director; Kristie Delay, Granby Town Trustee; and Josh Hardy, Granby Mayor.

Discussion went around and occasionally became emotional.

Questions were raised about the fairness of County government subsidizing one not-for-profit rodeo event, through the provision of facilities (The Flying Heels Arena) that are owned and at least partially maintained by the County, and not another. Charges were put forth that it is not the government’s place to eliminate “free competition” and that the quality of the rodeo “product” was the determining factor–somewhat uncommon terms in reference to non-profit entities.

Finally, Cimino asked both sides of the dispute if they would agree to negotiate schedules, especially around Slack events identified as most at risk of overlap with the proposed schedules.

When no agreement was forthcoming, Commissioner Kristen Manguso interjected, “This is getting into an attack. It’s not positive. I don’t see a resolution coming out of this tonight, except for hard feelings. And who does that benefit?”

Parties finally agreed to meet with the Granby and Fraser Town Managers present for mediation.

The application will go before the BOCC for a formal vote on Tuesday, March 23.

Commissioner Linke seemed to indicate his intention to participate in that vote, even though his sister, mother, nephew, and sister-in-law were all present to support a single side of an issue in which some of them have a financial interest.

Commissioner Linke did state resolutely that he personally does not have any financial interest that would benefit from his vote and that he would be able to cast his vote “free from any influence that would unethically sway
his decision” on the matter.