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Behind the scenes at the Hailey rodeo where 'the ground is everything'

 Stan Born rides the tractor at the Hailey rodeo grounds
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
Stan Born owns an arena in Gooding and works the grounds at the Hailey rodeo.

Stan Born knows his dirt.

“The ground is everything,” he said. “It can make you or break you. It can make you fast; it can make you slow.”

Born owns Shu-Fly Arena in Gooding. He’s been perfecting the grounds at his facility for two decades. He’s dug out the arena three times and started from scratch.

For the past several years, he’s worked the grounds at the Hailey 4th of July rodeo, too.

The afternoon before the second night of competition, he was riding on his green tractor, fluffing the dirt a few inches deep, then packing it down again.

In the winter, this arena is an ice skating rink. But after baking in the hot summer sun, the ground needed about three truckloads of water poured on it to recover from the previous day’s rodeo.

The dirt has to hold up for a bunch of different events – from bull riding to barrel racing.

“They’re doing 40-50 miles an hour and all of a sudden they come to a stop and turn a barrel and they’re off to the next one,” Born said about the barrel racers. It’s key, he said, to have dirt that’s not too deep around the barrels. That keeps the horses and the riders upright.

The preparation work on the tractor takes Born about an hour before each rodeo.

“It’s a lot of time just driving in a circle,” he said. “Driving somewhere, never getting there.”

It’s worth it, though, when he gets to see the contestants perform.

“I’m just that little bit that helped them get there,” Born said.

If he sees a little cloud of dust kick up as the last riders of the evening slide to a stop, he knows he’s done a good job.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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