Story by Tom Wilmes- “American Cowboy”

The 110th annual Cattlemens Days celebration took place July 9-18, 2010, in Gunnison, Colo., and was highlighted by a hugely successful Tough Enough to Wear Pink rodeo performance and related fund-raising events to help fight breast cancer.

The official tally isn’t yet available, however Jim Swaim, president of the Cattlemens Days committee, says that this years total will easily bring overall funds raised to more than $500,000 since 2006, the year Cattlemens Days first held a TETWP night. The event raised $90,000 that first year, and $210,000 in 2008. Not bad for a community of nearly 5,000 residents.

“Pink night was a huge success,” Swaim says. “For being such a down economy, the final tally for pink night is going to shock people.” Overall attendance was also up over last year.

First held in 1900, Cattlemens Days in the oldest rodeo in Colorado and is believed to be the sixth oldest rodeo in the country. While livestock auctions, parades, a 4-H horse show, and other related events have long been a part of the Cattlemens Days tradition, pink night has quickly become a favorite addition to the festivities. Related events include a star-studded concert held in nearby Mt. Crested Butte, Colo., and hosted by songwriter and performer Dean Dillon. This years event featured performances by Grammy-award winning country artists Tim Nichols, Bob DiPiero, and Scotty Emerick, as well as live and silent auctions. Additionally, $2 from every ticket sold for the pink night rodeo performance goes toward the grand total.

“The biggest reason for our success is the fact the whole community embraces the event,” says Swaim. “We had everyone from kids selling homemade cookies and lemonade on Main Street to mothers making quilts for the auction. We have amazing community support.”

The Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign, sponsored by Wrangler, is a nationwide fund-raising effort by the rodeo community to help fight breast cancer. While many participating rodeos donate their proceeds to national organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Cattlemens Days committee chooses to use its funds to help at the local level. Swaim says that Wrangler puts no stipulations on how the funds should be distributed, and doesnt ask for a cut of the total.

“The only parameter is that at the end of the year before the National Finals Rodeo we submit a grand total for matching funds and for promotional purposes,” Swaim says. “Wrangler wants none of the pie, they just want to know how much we raised.”

Last years proceeds, for example, will help the Gunnison Valley Hospital purchase a digital mammography machine. Swaim says that this years funds will help promote local breast cancer education and awareness programs, as well as to fund the Friends of Pink program. Cattlemen’s Days founded Friends of Pink two years ago to help local cancer patients and cancer survivors with whatever they may need, whether its arranging a ride to and from Denver for treatments, help paying a gas bill, or with purchasing medication.

“It was such a big year last year we decided that this year wed use the money to keep endowing the education and the Friends of Pink programs,” Swaim says. “Hopefully we can get to a point where mothers, daughters, and their daughters have the tools and awareness they need to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.”

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