HOOPER — Featuring two days with parades, the 100th anniversary of the Ski-Hi Stampede at the renovated complex in Monte Vista will run from July 20 to 24. This year’s Friday Parade Marshal is Lewis H. Entz, a 90-year-old soldier who returned home from the Korean War and continued serving his country.
Encouraged by younger neighbors, Entz ran for office and ultimately served 36 years as an Alamosa County Commissioner, a state representative, and a member of the Colorado Senate.
As a child, the Ski-Hi Stampede was the biggest event of the year for Entz. Many of his older sisters moved to other places, but they always came home for the Stampede. The dance drew people from across the Valley, and the professional rodeo is the oldest in Colorado.
Born Sept. 7, 1931, Entz lived and worked on his family’s farm, joined the United States Marine Corps, and returned home to farm with his brother Irvin “Dutch” Entz. They grew potatoes, alfalfa, and other grains while maintaining a flock of roughly 700 sheep.
Entz turned to representing constituents when “five young Republicans talked me into running.” He served 14 years as county commissioner for Alamosa, followed by 16 years as a house representative. During his first eight years, a new law set term limits. He served a full eight-year second term, and then he spent another six years in the Senate.
“I couldn’t have done it without the help of my son [Mike] essentially running the farm,” Entz said. He explained how rural representatives working at the state capitol have an added challenge to maintaining agricultural operations while they’re away from home.
The Ski-Hi Stampede features music, food, and multiple vendors. But the rodeo is the core of the celebration. The Stampede is one of many stops on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) circuit. To qualify for the National Pro Rodeo in Las Vegas, competitors gather points throughout the season. Perhaps the ultimate national champ will be in the rotation in Monte Vista.
Entz was never a horseman himself, noting how he preferred “steel ponies” (that is, motorcycles). A member of the Early Iron Club, Entz restored and maintained a number of vehicles over the years, including the 1943 Ford jeep he has driven in many parades across the Valley. As his 91st birthday approaches, Entz is also well-tuned himself with hair on his head and a skip to his step.
As a legislator, Entz left his mark in the Valley and across the state. He pushed to add 50 miles of paved roads in Alamosa. Also on the road, he initiated bills for the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway and signs marking the 38th parallel and the Korean conflict.
After a costly search and rescue operation in Mineral County almost completely drained the sheriff’s budget, Entz proposed the idea of adding a 25-cent fee to hunting and fishing licenses in 1983. Of the 440 bills he carried, 70 directly addressed water issues in Colorado. Entz is particularly proud of his Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” award from the Colorado Water Congress.