Breakaway Benefactor: Cindy Gruwell

In this 10-part series, Julie Mankin profiles the unsung heroes of breakaway roping.


Talk to any professional female roper during the days of the original WNFR and she’ll have fond memories of the biggest, baddest rodeo in the country.

It was the PWRA rodeo held with the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas, and it drew over 100 breakaway ropers and paid eight places and more than a thousand bucks to win – almost 30 years ago. Montana native Cindy Gruwell started the idea and got a director on the state fair committee to give her permission and put up the first $1,000.

Breakaway Benefactors: The 10 Unsung Heroes

“It was an 18-year run,” she recalls. “The first one was in 1985 or ’86 and it ran until 2002.”

Gruwell made the WNFR in team roping one year, but with two little boys and a ranch to manage, she didn’t get to travel like she would have liked. In producing Douglas, she says the biggest challenge was finding tie-down calves. One would think she’d have said it was managing the diverse and demanding interests of hundreds of women from all parts of the country and all walks of life.

But the no-nonsense Gruwell stuck to the PWRA rulebook and wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with barrel racers over the drag or ropers about which box they’d use. In fact, she says there’s so much history involved with that rodeo, she wishes she’d saved more of it.

“It wasn’t the fanciest production but we always gave a really nice wool coat for the all-around,” she says. “Everybody came. It was just fun.”

Gruwell, 58, loves being a grandma. She’ll spend this winter in Arizona, riding a young horse that hasn’t been through a barrier yet. Still, Arizona is having plenty of breakaway jackpots and she plans to “be entered.”

Sydnie Romero and "Shady" run one down at the 2024 Hooey Jr. Patriot.
Can't keep her down
Warrior at The Patriot: Sydnie Romero Ropes Through the Pain, Aims for WCRA and ProRodeo Future
Winning the West
9 Cowgirl Hall of Fame Ropers Who Paved the Way for Women in Rodeo
Bleu Hall comes from an Oklahoma family that runs stocker cattle—and her love to go fast and work with cattle made breakaway an easy choice.
Watch out for Hall
First of Her Kind: Bleu Hall Blazes a Rodeo Trail in her Family
Josey James Prepares to stop the clock during WCRA Rodeo Carolina. Photo by Bullstock Media courtesy WCRA.
Move over Jesse James
Josey James Continues Family Rodeo Tradition with Help from WCRA
Kieley Walz is proving dominant from the National High School Rodeo Finals to WRWC qualifiers.
In her blood
From NHSFR Champion to WRWC Contender: Kieley Walz's Rodeo Journey Soars
Shai Schaefer's name is going in the history books at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo with a 1.5-second breakaway run.
I wanna go fast
Who’s Shai Schaefer? The Breakaway Roper That Just Went 1.5 in San Antonio

"*" indicates required fields


Additional Offers

Additional Offers
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.