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Not long ago, the Days of '47 Rodeo was withering like a thirsty flower in the summertime sun. Prize money dwindled. The interest among contestants waned. Attendance dipped.
But times have changed.
In the 17 months since Days of '47 Rodeo president and CEO Dan Shaw took over, the rodeo has more than doubled the prize money it offers, regained respect among the participants and recaptured the imagination of the sport's fans in Utah.
The revived Komatsu Days of '47 Rodeo completed a five-night run on Saturday, when over 7,000 spectators watched the fifth round of competition at EnergySolutions Arena.
"When we came in," Shaw said, "we knew what we had to do."
The first move came when the Board of Directors decided to bring the rodeo back to Salt Lake City after a four-year run at the Maverik Center in West Valley.
"We felt like we belonged downtown for a lot of reasons," Shaw said. "It's important for the businesses down here. We also wanted to restructure the board and wanted downtown people to help us do that. We felt that would help with tickets sales quite a bit, which it has."
According to Shaw, about 30,000 fans attended this year's Days of '47, which offered a total purse of $243,000. The prize money makes it the seventh-richest one-round rodeo in the country, he said.
Another factor in the revival?
The Days of '47 had to re-recruit the cowboys and barrel racers who had found other places to compete during the week of July 24.
"We are trying to treat them like customers, which they are," Shaw said. "We treat them with respect and recognize what their needs are."
Examples include renting a nearby parking lot for easy access, using top-quality stock and providing a hospitality room where quality meals are served are served to contestants and their families.
Like most rodeos, the Days of '47 also hands out gift bags to contestants.
"We don't give them a water bottle and a hat," Shaw said. "We give them a gas gift card from Maverik because that's what they need. They need gas to get down the road. So it's a big deal."
The final round's bareback field is a testament to the Days of '47 comeback.
Eight riders competed, including Spanish Fork's Kaycee Feild. Together, they have won eight world championship and qualified for the Wrangler National Final Rodeo 43 times. Six are ranked among this year's top 20.
Highlights in the final round came in saddle bronc and barrel racing.
Rusty Allen of Eagle Mountain won the saddle bronc when he scored a 90 aboard two-time Horse of the Year Spring Planting.
In barrel racing, Nancy Hunter of Neola overtook the leaders with an arena record run of 13.05 seconds.
Fifth round • 1. Kaycee Feild (Spanish Fork, Utah), 84 points; 2. Steven Peebles (Redmond, Ore.), 83; 3. Steven Dent (Mullen, Neb.), 82.
Overall • 1. Winn Ratliff (Leesville, La.), 86 points; 2. Caine Riddle (Vernon, Texas), 85; 3. (Tie) Caleb Bennett (Morgan, Utah), Tim O'Connell (Zwingle, Iowa), Will Lowe (Canyon, Texas) and Feild, 84.
Fifth round • 1. (Tie) Stan Branco (Chowchilla, Calif.) and Dakota Eldridge (Elko, Nev.), 4.0 seconds; 3. Sterling Lambert (Fallon, Nev.), 4.3.
Overall • 1. Wyatt Smith (Rexburg, Idaho), 3.6 seconds; 2. Beau Clark (Belgrade, Mont.), 3.7 seconds; 3. Tommy Cook (McAlester, Okla.), 3.8; 4. (Tie) Ty Erickson (Helena, Mont.), Branco and Eldridge, 4.0.
Fifth round • 1. Steve Young (Goshen, Utah) and Olin Pullham (Heber, Utah, 5.0 seconds; 2. Manny Egusquiza (Madison, Ga.) and Brad Culpepper (Sylvester, Ga.), 9.2; 3. Zane Barnson (Washington, Utah) and Brian Roundy (Richfield, Utah), 10.4.
Overall • 1. Nick Sartain (Dover, Okla.) and Rich Skelton (Llano, Texas), 4.0 seconds; 2. (Tie) Luke Brown (Stephenville, Texas) and Kollin VonAhn (Blanchard, Okla.); Aaron Macy (Post, Texas) and Chad Williams (Stephenville, Texas); Nathan McWhorter (Telephone, Texas) and Cole Davison (Stephenville, Texas); Matt Sherwood (Pima, Ariz.) and Dugan Kelly (Paso Robles, Calif.), 4.2; 6. (Tie) Dustin Bird (Cut Bank, Mont.) and Paul Eaves (Iondell, Mo.) and Chad Masters (Cedar Hill, Tenn.) and Clay O'Brien Cooper (Gardnerville, Nev.), 4.3.
Fifth round • 1. Rusty Allen (Eagle Mountain, Utah), 90 points; 2. Chase Bennett (Santaquin, Utah), 76 points; 3. Allen Boore (Axtell, Utah), 63.
Overall • 1. Allen, 90 points; 2. Bradley Harter (Weatherford, Texas), 89; 3. Cody Wright (Milford, Utah), 88; 4. Taos Muncey (Corona, N.M.), 87 points; 5. Heith DeMoss (Heflin, La.), 85; 6. Ryan Mackenzie (Jordan Valley, Ore.), 83.
Fifth round • 1. Tuf Cooper (Decatur, Texas), 6.6 seconds; 2. Jesse Clark (Portales, N.M.), 6.9; 3. Cory Solomon (Prairie View, Texas), 7.4.
Overall • 1. Cooper, 6.6 seconds; 2. Clark, 6.9; 3. Monty Lewis (Hereford, Texas), 7.2 seconds; 4. (Tie) Cade Swor (Chico, Texas) and Shane Hanchey (Sulphur, La.), 7.3; 6. (Tie) Marshall Leonard (Shongaloo, La.), Jake Pratt (Ellensburg, Wash.) and Solomon, 7.4.
Fifth round • 1. Nancy Hunter (Neola, Utah), 13.05 seconds; 2. Kali Parker (Wendell, Idaho), 13.49; 3. Jody Sheffield (Ogden), 13.52.
Overall • 1. Hunter, 13.05 seconds; 2. Laura Kennedy (Quitman, Ariz.), 13.12 seconds; 3. Sammie Bessert (Loma, Colo.), 13.20; 4. Brooke Rix (Skidmore, Texas), 13.24; 5. Fallon Taylor (Whitesboro, Texas) and Carley Richardson (Pampa, Texas), 13.25.
Fifth round • 1. Cody Campbell (Summerville, Ore.), 84. No other qualified rides
Overall • 1. (Tie) Caleb Sanderson (Stephenville, Texas), Trey Benton III (Rock Island, Texas) and Tim Bingham (Honeyville, Utah), 85 points; 4. Campbell, 84; 5. Clayton Fulton (Winnie, Texas), 83; 6. Cole Echols (Elm Grove, La.), 81.