1949 71st ANNIVERSARY 2021
Western Heritage Event Center (WHEC)
While there were rodeos in Pagosa Springs dating back into the beginning of the century, the first Red Ryder® Roundup Rodeo was in 1949. In 1948, a group of local ranchers organized an effort to start a regular named rodeo series for this town. The initial group of volunteers included Glen Edmonds, Fred Harman, Daily Hott, Leon Montroy, Terry Robinson, and Babe Shahan, to name a few. They collaborated with the owner of the rights to the Red Ryder® registered trademark to brand this rodeo with the cartoon character that is so famous in this region. In 1949, the first rodeo was held at the site of the current Community Center. Photographs show how automobiles were placed in a large circular formation to create the boundary of the rodeo arena. Spectators stood behind the cars.
Later that year, the committee advertised and sold stock in the rodeo organization, named Pagosa Springs Enterprises, and raised $15,000. With these proceeds, approximately 40 acres of land was purchased for the expressed use of hosting the annual rodeo. That initial site continues as the current facility on the corner of Hwy. 84 and Mill Creek Road. Construction of a rodeo arena with wood boards and woven wire was accomplished just prior to the 1950 Red Ryder® Roundup Rodeo. Over time, the structures that exist on the rodeo grounds today were constructed as additional stock was sold for the purpose of raising money and creating a supporting membership.
For over 60 years, this organization has been run by local dedicated volunteers, funded with individual and business donations from the local community, and continues to be an independent, self-sustaining, and successful entity.
In the mid-1990s, the organization obtained their non-profit status and renamed the organization the Western Heritage Event Center whose mission is to provide an annual three-day Red Ryder® Roundup Rodeo as well as a year round venue for education & training for youth and equestrian events for Archuleta County. The Western Heritage Board is dedicated to preserving the history and traditions of the American West. This is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization.
NMRA 2016 Awards:
- Largest Rodeo Award (based on number of contestants entered)
- Top Gun Award (this is the rodeo voted on by contestants and staff as the best rodeo in the NMRA series)
WHEC is a charitable organization as qualified by the IRS under Section 501(c)3
The rodeo was named for the famous comic strip character, Red Ryder®. Red was the feature cowboy character in the popular long-running western comic strip created by Stephen Slesinger and drawn by Pagosa Springs resident and artist Fred Harman Jr.. Red was a cowboy hero and a crime fighter of the west who lived on the Painted Valley Ranch in the Blanco Basin in the San Juan Mountains. He was accompanied by his sidekick, Little Beaver, a young Navajo Indian boy, and dealt with the bad guys of the day. Both had trusty steeds named Thunder and Papoose, respectively. The comic strip was wildly popular and ran from 1938-1964 in 750 newspapers. The comic strip still runs today in The Pagosa Springs SUN weekly newspaper.
Printed with permission by the Slesinger family of Red Ryder Enterprises, Inc., which owns the Red Ryder trademarks and copyrights.