Touring Colorado’s Collections: Cattlemen’s Days

Program, Cattlemen’s Days, Courtesy Gunnison County Libraries.

Today Cattlemen’s Days, held in Gunnison, Colorado, is a celebration of Gunnison County’s rich ranching heritage.  Cattlemen’s Days is said to be Colorado’s oldest rodeo and the longest continuous running rodeo in the United States.  In the early 1880s, horsemen in the Gunnison area began to compete in riding and roping events.  These were usually informal leisure time events that evolved over time into a rodeo.

In 1894, cattle ranchers formed the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association to protect the interests of  the cattle growers.  In 1901 the association formalized the Gunnison Rodeo and held the first Cattlemen’s Days on Main Street.  Between 1913 and 1928, the rodeo and race events moved to the Colorado Normal School, now Western State Colorado University. The event moved back downtown from 1929 to 1936. When the Cattlemen’s Days Association was created, it built new facilities, with support from the community, and held the first Cattlemen’s Days at the current site in 1937.

Photograph, 1982 Cattlemen’s Days Queen Keri George, Courtesy Gunnison County Libraries.

The Gunnison County Library collects and documents Cattlemen’s Days history and in 2016 began to digitize this important community history.  They began the project by digitizing the most contemporary items first and are working their way back to the earliest historical items.    Articles, programs, brochures and photographs from the 1980s to 2016 are now searchable and available online.  The library’s goal is to continue to document this unique local history and make more available online. This year’s Cattlemen’s Days is in full swing and will run until July 16th.  Don’t miss this historical family friendly event!

Touring Colorado’s Collections explores Colorado’s digital collections that tell the state’s unique and diverse history.   If you know of a digital collection that I should highlight please email me at  I would love to hear from you!