Annual Sunnyside Rodeo set to celebrate 60 years
On July 9 and 10, Grassy Trail Riding Club will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The club was formed in 1950 with Tom McCourt as the first captain. They joined the Western States Riding Club Association the same year.
Prior to the formation of the riding club, the first rodeos in the area were held in the flats west of East Carbon across the tracks from Nick's Club. The arena fence was junk cars parked in an oval. Stock was furnished by Swanee Kirby, who later was the stock producer for the 24th of July celebrations at the Salt Palace.
The arena was originally a baseball diamond which was used the early 1900s by the Utah Fuel-sponsored baseball team. According to Leon Pressett, his dad was hired by the mine because of his ability to play baseball. Later the land was used as a garbage dump for the old community of Sunnyside. Around 1950, Alt and Gary Blackburn, Leon Pressett, Glen Long and Bud Monson cleared the area for a roping arena.
When they organized in 1950, club members began gathering railroad ties and other material to build an arena that would support a rodeo. The railroad was changing out ties and stacked them along the tracks in the desert as a donation to the club. Club members used their pick-up trucks to bring them home. The new arena was built on the site prepared earlier by Blackburn, Pressett, Monson, and Long, using plans designed by Jess McFarland. A 1954 newspaper article states that the arena was of regulation size and was one of the best in the region. Their goal at the time was to put lights and bleachers around the arena.
The Kaiser bathhouse was the site of the organization meeting. The original members of the all-male club included Glenn Alger, Lee Alger, Floyd Andrews, Alt Blackburn, ary Blackburn, Harold Collins, Robert Heers, By Hixon, Sherman Hicks, Ernest Lauriski, Glen Long, Frank Markosek, John Maxey, *Ivan McCourt, Tom McCourt, Larry McManus, Jess McFarland, Nolan Mecham, Ernest Monson, Lavar Mower, Jim Pearson, Frank Powell, *Leon Pressett, Allen Price, Fame Price, Owen Price, Tony Tangaro, Orson Turner, Thomas "Buster" Preston, Wayne Wiseman. (* indicates still surviving.)
In about 1952, Kaiser Steel mine superintendent Tom McCourt arranged for the mine to donate a storage shed from Number 2 Canyon. The club moved it to the present location in Sunnyside Canyon and remodeled it for a clubhouse. Through the years they built a kitchen, barroom, and fireplace. The fireplace wouldn't heat the building so they added gas stoves, a coal furnace and then a propane furnace. The club holds several dinner dances there each year. A donated railroad boxcar was remodeled for a concession stand.
Members have built cement and wooden bleachers and restroom facilities for the large crowds who attend each year. After a bull broke through the old tie and wire mesh fence, the club put up a pipe and chainlink fence. They have also improved the lighting system.
The small club of approximately 30 members has hosted a two-day rodeo for 60 years. The assistance from the general community has been greatly appreciated. After the rodeo, a steak fry is hosted by the club for those who help with the rodeo. The cost of the stock is very expensive and there have been years that club members have chipped in to cover the deficit. Since the beginning of Community Daze, this has not been necessary because of the added attendance.
For years the Grassy Trail sponsored a junior riding club and 4-H. Several of the children involved are still active members of the club. Many of those who have moved away are still active in riding and training horses. Several of the present members are third generation who bring the fourth generation to club functions.
For many years, the Saturday night rodeo was preceded by a daytime horse show. This continued until the middle 1980s. The club also sponsored a dance after the rodeo until the Community Daze took that over. Several trail rides are held each year.
For several years, Allred and Neilson from Cleveland supplied the rodeo stock. It is now supplied by Danny Clegg, a professional rodeo producer from Coalville.
In 1997, PentaCreeks bought the land under the arena and corrals as part of the Kaiser Bankruptcy. PentaCreeks intended at first to forbid holding the rodeo there that year but an agreement was finally reached between the owners and the club. The property has since been purchased by Sunnyside City who have awarded Grassy Trail Riding Club a long-term lease.
They will have old favorites available for visitors to enjoy including the old railroad car. This year at the concession stand they will be offering burgers, bbq pork sandwiches or brats with coleslaw and baked beans for $7.