Howdy folks, my name is Bill Lewkowitz. I am the Business Development Director for JHMR and have been working for the resort since 1984. I have a great job and in winter, I try to get out on the mountain every morning to ski and I absolutely cannot miss a powder day. When I moved to Jackson, Wyoming in the spring of 1981, I came to the West looking for a more exciting place to ski and call home, and Jackson Hole and the Tetons surely exceeded my expectations. Not only did I find the best place in the US to ski and live, I found a true western community that was so much more than just a ski town. I fell in love with the area, the people, the western culture and I looked for new things to do that would broaden my perspective on living and playing in Wyoming.
After a few summers of playing softball, fly fishing, camping and trying other Jackson pastimes, I realized that I was in the perfect place to nurture my lifelong passion for horses. At first, I leased horses, and then worked part-time on a dude ranch; guiding trail rides and wrangling on pack trips. At that point, I knew I was hooked and horses would always be part of my life. I was lucky enough to meet my future wife Natalie, a Wyoming raised girl, who just happened to own a wonderful barrel racing and team roping horse. I quickly became immersed in the world of horses – team roping and rodeo.
Summers in Jackson Hole are the perfect time to do all sorts of outside activities and team roping has been my activity of choice for the past 20 years. It’s an exciting sport that features two mounted riders and a live steer. The first rider tries to rope the steer around the horns and then the second rider tries to rope the hind legs. Sounds simple, right? However, trying to accomplish this task with two riders, two horses, and a steer that is trying to get away makes it much more difficult than it appears. The sport derived from activities necessary on working ranches and the technique is still used by cowboys today to capture steers when they need to be restrained for doctoring or other needs. To be a good team roper takes a lot of experience and practice, but having a good horse is one of the most important elements in the sport. I am very fortunate to have two wonderful rope horses named Jax and Skamper. Horses need to be well bred, stout,have the right mind/temperament and be well trained to become a good roping horse. The horse of choice, for almost all ropers, is the American Quarter Horse and ropers look long and hard to find “a good one”.
In Jackson, we are fortunate to have several nice public arenas where one can practice team roping. There are two arenas at the Teton County Fairgrounds and one is an indoor facility, where you can practice year round. Another great place to team rope is at the arena, located at Owen Bircher Park in Wilson. Here members of the Wilson Roping Club can be found roping steers every Tuesday and Thursday night May-October. This tradition has been going on for over 50 years. On these nights, you will find kids, men and women of all ages roping and enjoying the thrill, excitement, and camaraderie that comes with this truly western activity.
Of course, if you are going to rope, you are going to want to compete and cowboys and cowgirls have plenty of opportunities in and around Jackson at various rodeos and roping competitions. Local ropers and rodeo contestants are lucky, since there is a rodeo in Jackson every Wednesday, Friday (most) and Saturday nights from Memorial Day – Labor Day. Located at the Teton County Fairgrounds in the town of Jackson, the Jackson Hole Rodeo has over 100 years of tradition and visitors and locals alike come to see cowboys and cowgirls compete.
Events include bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, barrel racing, junior bull riding, ‘muttin-busting’ , tie-down and team roping. Rodeo competitors of all ages can be found all summer long competing in these events for nightly prize money and year-end buckles and saddles. Every cowboy or cowgirl knows that winning prize money is an important part of rodeo, but I doubt you can find any rodeo competitor who does not want to win a gold buckle or saddle sometime in their rodeo career. As they say, money lasts only to your next entry fee is due, but the buckles/saddles and the memories that come with them, last forever. For more information and the rodeo schedule, you can visit the Jackson Hole Rodeo website at www.jhrodeo.com
Another great western tradition in the Jackson Hole area is the annual Teton County Fair and Rodeo. This year marks the 60th year for the Fair and the dates are July 22nd – 31st. The Teton County Fair is dear to my heart and I spent 15 years working on the Fair Board to help produce this annual event. I truly enjoy everything that comes with the Fair and there are activities for all ages and preferences. There is no admission fee to the Fair, but there is a charge for some of the evening events that include Pig Wrestling, Professional Bull Riding, Rodeo and the local favorite, the Figure 8 car races. In addition, there is a free concert on Wednesday night July 27th, featuring Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band and the Grammy-nominated Reckless Kelly Band. Everyone loves a carnival and the Teton County Fair offers one of the best traveling shows in the western US. There are plenty of games to test your skill and luck, all kinds of carnival food and of course, plenty of rides for kids and thrill seekers of all ages.
No Fair would be complete without a livestock show and sale and this is the true foundation of the Teton County Fair. It has become a time-honored tradition to come to the livestock sale on Friday afternoon to get a chance to watch the sale, visit with neighbors and bid on the kids 4-H steers, pigs, lambs, and rabbits. Generosity prevails from the local buyers and local business owners who bid on the livestock and many healthy college funds are bolstered at the sale. There is much more to do at the Fair that I have not mentioned, so come see for yourself and check out this summers ‘Steers, Cheers and 60 Years” Fair. You can get more detailed information at their website at www.tetoncountyfair.com
Well ‘pard’, I hope this gives you some insight into the activities and traditions in the “Last of the Old West” available in Jackson Hole.