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What it Takes to be the #1 Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo in the US

Hey y’all! Thanks for tuning in! I would LOVE to preface this article with the fact that you guys are in for a treat! I am beyond excited to be able to witness the Number 1 Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo, Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days in action all week long, July 9-14th. Although this isn’t just a week-long event for this county, there is something going on all year-round. I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes with some of the folks that make it possible. Take a read!

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

First I would like to introduce you to Heidi, the Executive Director of the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Program for Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days. She handles all of the event planning and volunteer efforts to make it all possible.

So Heidi, for our readers, can you tell me about your role in Gunnison Cattlemen Days?

I have been the Executive Director for our Tough Enough to Wear Pink Program for five years but I have been a volunteer on the TETWP committee for much longer. I originally got involved because my friends and community were involved. Our mission hits close to home because I have had family members with breast cancer as well. 

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

Heidi has lived in the Gunnison Valley for the last 25 years. She is an interior designer for her company, Interior Visions, which she started in 2004. Her passion for this organization was fueled by the breast cancer diagnoses of her beloved grandmother, Verda Heimbucher, and her mother, Elisabeth Sherratt. One of the things that stood out to me most when talking to Heidi about the program was the fact that it runs so deep into the community. We will touch more on that a bit further down!

Gunnison County Fun Fact

The population of Gunnison County is just over 16,000. It is a known statement in Gunnison that there are more elk in Gunnison County than there are people!

Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days is known for being the number one, Tough Enough To Wear Pink Rodeo in the country, can you tell me a little bit about how it happened?

Our Tough Enough to Wear Pink Program started a year after the national campaign started, so we have been going strong for 14 years now. Jimmy Clark was only one of the founders of Cattlemen’s Days TETWP program . He was the one that had asked Dean Dillon to play for the rodeo to raise money for the program. At first, Dean declined. Tragically, Jimmy Clark passed away a short time later and in his place, his son, Cjay Clark, stepped up to the plate. 

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

Cjay Clark carried on after his father’s death and asked Dean Dillon to do a fundraising concert, and on Jimmy’s behalf, Dean Dillon accepted and has been playing for the Concert and Auction ever since. Although the TETWP Program is part of Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days, it is its own sub-committee governed by a separate advisory board; which allows it to pretty much be a standalone organization.

I would imagine that the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign doesn’t just stay in the arena, how has it affected the community?

We originally started with two main events, the Concert & Auction and the TETWP night at the rodeo. It has significantly grown to multiple events throughout the year. We have the Mountain High Music Festival in January, Pink in the Rink, a women’s hockey tournament in October (Fourth Year) which raises money for one of our programs, Friends of Pink.

Since 2015, Friends of Pink has given $86,206.27 to help individuals in the Gunnison Valley who were impacted financially due to a breast cancer diagnosis (lost wages, travel expenses for treatment, etc.). At the time, there weren’t any local programs in place, other than some minor financial assistance and minimal early screening assistance. Gunnison saw a need and they provided ten-fold. 

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

That isn’t where the help stopped either. About two years ago, the Gunnison TETWP program was able to purchase a revolutionary Hologic 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography Machine in 2017 which was a whopping $370,000.00 but was much needed in the community. Some of the other much-needed community purchases include TUFFY and BUCKY. A RAM Truck and a Dodge Durango that is used by people who have to leave the valley for medical treatments.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

Your organization was able to raise just about $450,000 last year alone, what are your fundraising goals this year?

My dream goal would be to reach $500,000 this year, BUT I am always happy to hit that $300,000 mark.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

We hope that you will share Gunnison’s story and mission so we can help them get to $500,000 this year! That share button is just to the left, click the platform of your choice and let’s share the love!

How long does it take to plan a production like Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days?

It is a year-round position but I also have a full time job on top of this position. There is always something going on and it isn’t just the rodeo that we have to get ready for. It takes a village! I have a solid 45 volunteers but a board of 9 people that help plan and make decisions. It helps that we have a huge support in the community as well. 

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

Is there anything that you are adding to the program this year that our readers should be excited about?

We really want people to spread the word that there will be additional money added to the events on Pink Night, July 11th. That means if we have a cowboy or cowgirl that wins and they are wearing their pink shirt, they will receive an additional $1875  on top of the normal added money. 

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

What do you think the future holds for Tough Enough to Wear Pink and Gunnison Cattlemen Days?

Our end goals include funding a full Cancer Center here in Gunnison County. We still have several members of the community that have to drive to Denver for treatment and no one should have to drive that far for cancer treatment. I would really like to see RAM Rodeo start a program for TETWP as well. That could be huge, not only for them [RAM Rodeo] but also for Tough Enough to Wear Pink Programs throughout the country. The last thing that I would really like to see, is Tough Enough to Wear Pink Programs explode in the rodeo community.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

Heidi and I went a little more in-depth on these conversations and let me just say the passion shows! Coming from a rodeo background and being on a committee myself, I completely understand creating and executing a program as Heidi has created. I think it comes down to passion and your “why”. Not everyone is cut out for it, but you have to find the people that will help you make it happen and Heidi has!

As a bonus, I was able to hop the phone with the future president of Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days, Mike Dawson! Below are some of the highlights from that interview.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days?

The very first Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days was 119 years ago. Back then there was only one cutting a year in Gunnison due to the seasons so ranchers use the good weather to drive stock into town and have a rodeo. It used to take place right on Main St. in downtown Gunnison. There weren’t stock contractors back then, so they would just wrangle up the wild horses on the range and bring them right into town. The arena used to just be a bunch of vehicles parked in a circle.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

So Gunnison is known as the “Longest Continuously Running Rodeo” in the country as well?

Yes, we became sanctioned with the PRCA in 1941, but we had been going strong well before that. We are definitely one of the oldest rodeos in the west.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

What makes Cattlemen’s Days different than other rodeos? 

The cool thing about us is that we are using the same stock contractor as the big players, such as Cheyenne Frontier Days. Even though we are a smaller rodeo, we put on a heck of a show. For us, it is our annual celebration, just as it was back in the day. This is the main event for everyone in and around Gunnison. We have one parade, one carnival, one fair…we “cram all the fun in at one time”. Most people know we dedicate a night to TETWP, but we are also dedicating a night to our ranching heritage. Saturday day night will be a contribution to the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy, their motto is “Conserve Ranchlands. Preserve Ranching.” and that’s what Cattlemen’s Days purpose is.

Photo Courtesy of Allan Ivy

In closing…

You don’t have to be involved in a rodeo to appreciate the hard work that these folks go through to put on this event. Cowboy Lifestyle Network is beyond excited to be partnering with this committee again to bring so much well-deserved awareness to what they are accomplishing. If you feel it in your heart to contribute to their efforts, you can do so online. IF you are thinking about a summer road trip and want to get away for a weekend, Gunnison should be your place to be! For the whole schedule and information on this amazing event, check out their website. I will see you soon Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days!

CLN Community & Event Sponsor

Hi everyone! I'm Krysta Paffrath, I am a proud Arizona native who has a passion for everything business and rodeo. I am beyond thrilled to be the Account Manager & Editor for Cowboy Lifestyle Network. With my background in social media marketing and running my own business, this was a natural fit for me to join the team. My adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit has guided me to work in many places like the WYO Quarter Horse Ranch in Thermopolis, Wyoming, a working cattle ranch in Seligman, Arizona and many places in between. I am passionate about preserving the western way of life and working with different brands to make that happen. If you're looking for a write-up, please shoot me an email!

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