MONTE VISTA — Ski-Hi Stampede is billed as the oldest professional rodeo in Colorado. Beginning in 1919, the event is full of history and tradition including the tradition of the Stampede Queen. Since the first Stampede, when Kitty Hallferty was crowned the Stampede Queen there have been 70 queens. The last Stampede Queen was crowned in 2004 when the honor was given to Johanna Steffens.
In an article written by Marian Fennell Colwell and Dorothy Wilson in 1970 they wrote, “Selection as Queen of the Ski-Hi Stampede has long been considered one of the highest honors attainable by a young lady in the San Luis Valley and Southern Colorado.”
A group is trying to preserve the history of the Ski-Hi Stampede Queens. Jim Clare, whose mother was Stampede Queen in 1935, is part of the group.
“Right now, we are a small group just trying to get the history out there,” Clare said. “What we would like to do is get some of the past queens to come to a meeting and form a committee of their own. Up until several years ago, there was group of past queens that met every year but that died off. We would like the group to get going again and since the Stampede will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year (2022) we thought this would be a good reason to get the group going again.”
It was high honor that had responsibility attached to it. It was more than just waving and riding during Stampede. The Queen’s main job was to promote the Ski-Hi rodeo and they travelled to different places and rodeos to advertise the Ski-Hi Stampede. They were introduced at these events and then handed out pamphlets to crowds to promote that year’s Ski-Hi Stampede. They were expected to tell people what time events would be happening, who the band was at the dances and much more. The Queens also sometimes promoted the event by talking on the radio. Nowadays with the internet and social media a lot of this is done online.
During Stampede, they also had duties some of which included helping run out cattle, going to the parade every day, and the dances every night. At the dances, they were introduced, and they welcomed people and shared what they had done.
Preserving this piece of the Ski-Hi Stampede is important to the group. There are plans to have a viewing of the past Stampede Queens’ photos at the Rio Grande County Museum in the last couple weeks of July. The dates have not been finalized, but they would like it to be around the time of Ski-Hi Stampede. They would also like to eventually create a permanent display honoring the past Stampede Queens.
“It is just a part of the Stampede history that I hope we don’t lose. Once it is gone it most likely will never come back. A lot of the queens have passed but were or are mothers, grandmothers, and even great grandmothers of families in the Valley,” said Clare.
If you are a past Stampede Queen and are interested in joining the committee, contact the Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce at 719-852-2731.
The 99thSki-Hi Stampede is set for July 23-25 at the Ski-Hi Park in Monte Vista. For more information, visit www.skihistampede.com.