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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 28, 20183min517
Retired Colorado Department of Agriculture veteran Chris Wiseman is returning to his old job as general manager of the State Fair until a new one be hired. He held the job from 2004 until he was named deputy ag commissioner in 2015. Wiseman retired in November. Wiseman will hold the job in the interim. Sarah […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 27, 20173min752

The Colorado State Fair Foundation gave state Rep. Clarice Navarro its Outstanding Service Award for her time, effort and leadership for the annual carnival, concerts, rodeos and various competitions in Pueblo.

“It’s not every day that you get to experience racing pigs, sea lions or zip lining all in one location in Colorado, but it’s the 4-H and National FFA Organization kids that steal my heart every year,” Navarro wrote in an op-ed in the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper to laud the event in August.

“The Fair administration and staff have tried diligently to ensure that there is something to see and do for everyone. While I’m a stalwart for keeping the Fair in Pueblo, I also know that we have to have an event that appeals to everyone across this great state, and this year should not disappoint.”

Navarro has been a stalwart for the fair at the statehouse, as well, resisting efforts my northern Front Range lawmakers who suggest it should be moved out of Pueblo to help attract more visitors.

The fair began in Pueblo four years before Colorado became a state.

Pueblo native Adam Daurio, vice president of the foundation’s board, presented Navarro with the award.

Navarro has represented Fremont, Pueblo and Otero counties since she was first elected in 2012. She grew up in southeast Colorado and cites her rural upbringing in her support for 4-H and FFA programs, which inspires her support for the fair, she said.

The is a member of the “Fair Ladies” buyers group, one of the groups that bid on champion livestock to benefit the young competitors. She also is a member of the 1872 Club, which denotes the year the fair started and is part of the State Fair Foundation.

“This is probably one of the most meaningful awards that I have received while serving in the state legislature,” Navarro said in a statement. “I love the Foundation for the support and hard work they put in for the fair and the 4-H and FFA kids. The Foundation is an amazing organization led by amazing people that deeply care about the future of the Colorado State Fair.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 31, 20174min501
Cowboys and cowgirls mingle at the Denver Rustlers: Rep. Susan Lontine of Denver, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, and Denver Elections director Amber McReynolds. (SOS photo)

 

ColoradoPolitics.com’s Joey Bunch gave you an eyeful of the Denver Rustlers in his coverage of the civic group’s annual ride Tuesday from the Queen City of the Prairie to the sultry Steel City, home of the Colorado State Fair. Yet, no coverage of the annual charitable event — involving Colorado’s political potentates and business big shots — would be complete without getting Lynn Bartels’s take.

Owing to her decades in the news biz, the former political correspondent and now minister of information for the Secretary of State’s Office is on a first-name basis with many of the state’s high and mighty — and has a keen eye for capturing them in pictures and in print. She didn’t disappoint with her rendering of this year’s Rustler ride, which she posted on her blog. She included some great pics, which (apologies to Bartels) are reprised here — Lynn’s captions and all:

 

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway and former state agricultural secretary Don Ament at the Denver Rustlers lunch at Del Frisco’s. (SOS photo)

 

Republicans Pete Coors and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner at the Denver Rustlers event. (SOS photo)

 

Gathered for Tuesday’s Denver Rustler’s event: Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Steve Weil of Rockmount Ranch, and Wes Friednash and Josh Hanfling, who both help oversee the event. (SOS photo)

 

Denver City Councilwoman Kendra Black and Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson. (SOS photo)

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 29, 20179min476
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Denver Rustlers’ co-founder and sponsor Larry Mizel greets the posse Tuesday morning at the Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Greenwood Village. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

A do-gooder delegation of more than 300 state and metro Denver politicians and business leaders descended on Pueblo, the Home of Heroes, Tuesday for the Junior Livestock Auction at the Colorado State Fair.

The Denver Rustlers rode again for the 33rd year.

More than 300 Rustlers filled three luxury buses to Pueblo, with several statewide officials — Gov. John Hickenlooper, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and Secretary of State Wayne a Williams — doing their best to visit with everyone on board all three, making their way down the center aisles and switching buses at rest stops on the way.

Once at the fair, the Rustlers were joined by members of groups that have sprung up to give the Rustlers some competition– the Pikes Peak Posse, the Pigskin Buckaroos and the Fair Ladies, a bidding group from Pueblo and Otero counties.

“They grow the numbers every year and match or set records every year, and it all goes toward a great cause, which is paying for college for these kids,” said state Rep. Justin Everett, a Littleton Republican and a candidate for state treasurer.

Everett said he’s been to Pueblo with the Denver Rustlers going on eight years. “It’s great because everybody ignores partisanship and focuses on the kids and spending the day in Pueblo. Metro Denver legislators get to step outside their comfort zone.”

Wearing white Rockmount Ranch Wear shirts with flowered embroidery, they gathered Tuesday morning at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Greenwood Village. The posse loaded into buses for a trail ride to the fair to drive up the auction prices and reward young livestock-raising competitors.

“This is one pork project we can all support, and that’s getting down to the state fair and buying some of the livestock from these kids who have worked so hard around the four corners of Colorado,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma, after marveling at the number of “Yuman beings” from his hometown in the crowd.

He was introduced by one of the founding Rustlers, businessman and philanthropist Larry Mizel, who joked, “We’ll take short comments, starting with Cory,” and the crowd groan and laughed. Mizel added of his own height, “our U.S. senator, one of the guy’s my size.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former pub owner, turned the subject to beer, noting 33 years of the Rustlers made him think of 1933, the year the Volstead Act was repealed ending Prohibition. He noted that a bottle of Rolling Rock beer (brewed in St. Louis, by the way) has the number 33 on the front of the bottle and 33 words on back.

“Now I’m not superstitious, but I’m just saying 33 is a good number, so this better be a good trip,” the governor said before shoving off.

Denver Rustlers anticipate setting records on 33rd outing to Colorado State Fair

Hickenlooper told the dignitaries that the state fair is a “big deal,” and so is their annual trip.

“This expedition is a big deal for the entire state, because it allows us to support agriculture in a very powerful way,” he said.

Tim Schultz, another of the founding Rustlers, talked about how it all started. There was a great concern at the time  about cancelling the junior livestock auction at the state fair, because the bidding seemed to be in a deep wane.

“This is one of the rare times folks from the metropolitan area can reach out and help kids from all across Colorado,” Schultz said.

The late Tom Farley, a former state legislator from Pueblo, approached Tim Schultz, who was then the state agriculture commissioner, along with Mizel and Denver dairy operators Dick and Eddie Robinson, who enlisted their friends.

State Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat from Thornton running for state treasurer, is a veteran Rustler. He was born in Sterling and comes from generations of family farmers in northeast Colorado.

“I think it’s important as a legislator to understand all the different parts of our economy,” he said. “Because I was born in the rural part of Colorado, I get it.”

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Gov. John Hickenlooper tells Denver Rustlers that the state fair is a big deal and so are they. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, a very urban Democrat from Denver, said the event opens pathways of communication that hopefully pay off later when legislation, partisanship and pressure are intertwined in the House and Senate.

“This is so Colorado, people coming together,” he said at Del Frisco’s. “This is what we say we do, but this is us actually doing it. We bring people together, we have conversations across party lines, across socio-economic lines. It’s just people getting together. … This is that one time you chat with that person from the other side who you’ve meaning to get ahold of, but you just never were able to. Now you can. We’re together all day.”

Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, said good economic relationships are forged, as well, and rural Colorado needs both. He supported reclassifying the state’s hospital provider fee to an enterprise fund for two years. The legislation passed this year, when lawmakers understood more clearly that in big cities healthcare is big business. In rural Colorado they are a literal and economic lifeline.

“I’m from rural Colorado, so i don’t always understand how metro (areas) work,” he said outside Del Frisco’s. “I couldn’t imagine going to school with thousands of students. It’s a two-way street on a lot of these issues.”

State Sen, Tim Neville, a Republican from Littleton, built on that point, “We’re state legislators,” he said. “We should think of all of Colorado and what’s best for Colorado as one all the time. Things like this remind of us of that.”

His son, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Republican from Castle Rock, had a simpler answer that nearly Republicans and Democrats could all agree with on a hot summer day.

“It’s always good to get out of Denver and see the rest of Colorado,” he said.

Would he buy a cow at the auction? No, he said, though his money was in the Rustlers pot to bid. He already has chickens that provide him eggs. The steak can come from elsewhere.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 26, 20178min462
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Gov. John Hickenlooper left, and state Senate President Kevin Gratham chat at the legislative barbecue at the Colorado State Fair Friday night. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

State lawmakers were out in force at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo Friday night.

The celebration of Colorado’s farming, ranching and funnel cakes started Friday and runs thorugh Sept. 4. After the rodeo Friday night, Joe Diffie sang, “If the Devil Danced in Empty Pants.”

If the devil got tired of dancing, there was plenty room to sit down on the fair’s opening night. Crowds were light.

The fair is perpetually underfunded and can’t seem to attract crowds big enough to sustain itself in Pueblo without taxpayers’ support.

At the legislative barbecue and, later, the Governor’s Beef Show, in the spirit for crops and livestock was pitched.

“This is the best time of year, the changing of the seasons, we’re getting ready to harvest all our agricultural production for the year, and we get to see all our old friends,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said on stage at the legislative barbecue put on by the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, before reading a long list of members of his administration at the fair Friday night.

The list included Donna Lynne, the former health care executive turned lieutenant turned potential gubernatorial candidate, who didn’t win when she showed a steer in the exhibition show put on by the Colorado Farm Bureau that pairs politicians and young 4-H mentors. The governor pointed out Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the former state attorney general, in the crowd.

“Here’s my short speech,” Hickenlooper said as he began a two-minute address to the politicians, lobbyists and various political hangers-on. “The speech is about how important ag is to Colorado and how important you are to ag.”

He noted the bipartisan support on some major issues in the last legislative session, including a lot of ag issues.

“I’m going to challenge you to a better session in 2018,” Hickenlooper told lawmakers in the crowd.

He turned his attention to the financially hamstrung fair.

Colorado State Fair“The state fair is a time-honored tradition,” Hickenlooper said, telling of its history that dates back to 1872, four years before Colorado’s statehood.

“Right here is one of the cultural highlights of the state and best represents our strong ag groups who pour billions of dollars into our economy every year, over 107,000 employees, 34,000 farms and ranches, basically more entrepreneurs in agriculture than every other business combined.”

Each new legislature usually includes a few from other parts of the state who talk of moving the fair out of Pueblo, usually to metro Denver to put it closer to more Coloradans and tourists. With hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the renovations of the National Western Complex in Denver, those talks are like gasoline on a leaf fire these days.

In 2015,  House Bill 1344 — sponsored by then-House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, D-Denver and Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan — authorized the state to issue $350 million worth of bonds to upgrade the Denver grounds to help support an $856 million project.

For the state fair, lawmakers are called on regularly to help the it balance its books. Some are getting tired of paying.

Last year, for instance, Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Leroy Garcia, both Democrats from Pueblo, sponsored legislation that would put in $100,000 to go with $140,000 approved by Pueblo voters for renovations to the horse arena at the fairgrounds, along with money from the fair’s foundation and other sources.. The goal was to help attract more non-fair events to Pueblo, as well as maintain the facility as a draw for 4-H competitions. Half the legislature’s proposed contribution would have come from the marijuana tax haul.

“The junior livestock sale is instrumental in supporting the future of Colorado’s agribusiness,” Garcia told the committee. “It demonstrates to the youth the importance of raising quality livestock and the work required by those who pursue careers in agriculture.”

The bill passed the Democratic-led House on a 39-25 vote, but Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee killed it. During questioning they asked about local support for the fair in Pueblo, and business practices in running the fair that might be the reasons it’s not attracting crowds, rather than repeatedly turning to the state taxpayers.

Legislative support Friday night, however, sounded clear and strong.

“It highlights one of the greatest economic drivers of our state,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. One of the things we all have in common is we all have to eat.”

But will the State Fair be in Pueblo?

“If I have anything to say about it, yes,” Grantham said.

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The crowd was light at the Colorado State Fair Friday night in Pueblo. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)