The grandstands at the La Plata County Fairgrounds were packed over the weekend for the 83rd annual Durango Fiesta Days.
The three-day event featured four rodeos, a parade and numerous other events to celebrate the Western spirit of the area. "Fiesta Days is mostly a party, more or less," said Bronson Ashcroft. "It's a traditional way of lifestyle and it brings it to town so everyone can experience that and see what we do for a living. In general, it's a party here in Durango."
The four rodeos throughout the weekend are the highlight of the festival. Events at the rodeo included bronc riding - both bareback bronc and saddle bronc - barrel racing, mutton busting, bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping and breakaway roping.
Ashcroft works for a contractor and helps make sure the rodeo runs without a hitch. His jobs include making sure the arena is clean and caring for and feeding the animals. "I make sure everything runs smooth for the rodeo," Ashcroft said.
Liesl Chenowith, a 13-year-old Bayfield Middle School student, was crowned Junior Princess Attendant on Saturday. A princess rides horses around the arena with flags of event sponsors. "Everyone there is cheering you on," she said. "Especially with the queen stuff, all the little kids smile when they see you and that just makes my day. I like making people smile and helping people have fun together."
Chenowith says Fiesta Days, which has occurred annually since 1935, is an important part of Durango's heritage.
"It's jam-packed with everything you can get," she said. "You just watch the rodeo and have a fun time."
James Oury of Durango brought his three young sons to the rodeo. The family-friendly nature of the event is one of the reasons his family enjoys Fiesta Days, he said.
"You see grandmothers watching their granddaughters," he said. "There aren't many events in life that are physical, that aren't social media, that you can come to and see the integration of all ages and demographics. I think that's a very positive thing."
Oury also enjoys the connection the Western lifestyle brings to the local community.
"The connection to the countryside is really important and it's quite a stabilizing force for Durango and the families here," he said.
His family's favorite event to watch is the bronc riding.
"I'm a kid in a 50-year-old body," Oury said.
"I think those guys are so brave. The kids are the bravest on the muttons, though."
Jymmy Haddon, whose daughter participated in the barrel racing, said Durango is fortunate to have an annual rodeo. "This is a great rodeo," she said. "For the people of Durango to come out and see a rodeo of this caliber is awesome. It's really good to have a rodeo like this stay in the community for this many years."
Haddon said that Fiesta Days brings a sense of historic pride to the community.
"To have something like this in our community, it's kind of a lost way of life around here anymore," she said. "It's a great thing to see still stay in Durango.