DODGE CITY, Kan. – Cody Cavanaugh, Mike Keiper and Josh Mertens have different thoughts on horsepower than most who are involved with the 2015 Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.
They are an integral part of Wisconsin Freestyle Motocross, which will be one of the featured pieces of entertainment during the five performances of the rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2. The three athletes will put on a spectacular display of freestyle motocross jumps inside Roundup Arena.
“We’re pretty excited about working that event,” said Cavanaugh, the founder of WIFMX, based in Neenah, Wis. “We always like going to new places. You get to meet the rodeo committee members and usually make good friends that way. It’s also nice for us to see a different culture.”
The WIFMX players all have extensive motocross experience. Now in their third year as a specialty act in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Cavanaugh and staff travel the rodeo trail putting on shows that expose some amazing feats on the backs of motorcycles.
“One of the things that make our show unique is that quite a few of us can ride motorcycles and jump four-wheelers,” he said. “I like the way we’re diverse in that way.”
It’s just another big piece of the entertainment pie that is Roundup Rodeo, which was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2012. It already is a key stop on the ProRodeo trail and will feature hundreds of the top contestants in the game. By combining with WIFMX, the volunteer rodeo committee that produces the annual event is just increasing the value for fans.
“We take a lot of pride in having the very best in rodeo,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the committee. “We have world champions in every performance of our rodeo, and we wanted to bring something else to the table for our great fans to enjoy.
“A lot of people come back to our rodeo year after year, and we always want to give them something special to enjoy. I believe having Cody Cavanaugh and his group here will really help make this year’s rodeo even better.”
Though his primary focus is on riding motorcycles, Cavanaugh grew up in a rodeo family. His parents were raised in South Dakota, and his father grew up on a farm and was part of rodeo as a roper and barrelman.
“When my parents moved to Wisconsin, we had horses on the farm right away, and we still have a horse-drawn carriage business we still run,” he said. “We have a hobby farm with petting-zoo animals. That’s how I had room enough to ride motorcycles around Wisconsin.”
He was outfitted with a three-wheeler at age 3, then moved on to his first dirt bike at 7. He started building little jumps with friends, then the jumps kept getting bigger. He loved the idea of FMX because of what he had seen on television and found it to be a great outlet.
Of course, being outside and active was a big part of how he was raised.
“As a kid, I roped quite a bit, and I come from a horse background,” Cavanaugh said. “In fact, our jumps are set up in a horse pasture.”
The WIFMX team now has a customized ramping system it takes to rodeos all across the country, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, to Park Rapids, Minn., to Dodge City. It takes just a few minutes of set-up time, and the excitement in the arena takes off. That’s where Cavanaugh, Keiper and Mertens show off the elaborate tricks they’ve perfected over the years.
“There is a small crashing curve that comes with learning new tricks,” Cavanaugh said. “If you’re going to push yourself, it can sometimes not end well. With a lot of practice, our confidence grew.
“I tell people all the time that we’ve been allowed to do these cool jobs of just riding motorcycles. Find something you like to do and do it all the time.”
It works for the WIFMX team, and for fans that make their way to Roundup Arena.
LOVINGTON, N.M. – Eight decades ago, Jake McClure was the dominant calf roper in rodeo; the Lea County, N.M., cowboy had revolutionized his event and had earned titles at the most prestigious events in the game.
His hometown event, the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, was established in his heyday. This August, the exposition will celebrate its 80th year. Inside the expansive fairgrounds on the eastern edge of Lovington sits Jake McClure Arena, home to one of the most recognized events in ProRodeo.
“No matter the amount of time that goes by, it’s the one thing that brings the county together every year,” said Corey Helton, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “It’s gotten bigger over the years, especially lately with the concerts and the rodeo. It’s the one event that the residents of Lea County know is going to happen every year.”
This year’s celebration is set for Friday, July 31-Saturday, Aug. 8, and will feature a touch of the historic, a splash of the new generation and a bushel of fun. The best part is the admission is just $8 for adults and $6 for children.
“A lot of people in this part of the country take pride in the county fair,” Helton said. “Every year it gets better and better, and I think people expect it to be what it is.”
From the great concerts – Ricochet, Cody Johnson, Crowder, Dan & Shay, Scotty McCreery and Gregg Allman – to the various livestock shows to Lea County Xtreme Bulls and the rodeo to the food and carnival, there are numerous reasons why this county fair is such a must-see event.
“I think we all know the fair actually started with the kids and showcasing the kids’ hard work throughout the year with the livestock shows,” Helton said. “We can never lose sight of that. It’s still about that. It’s about the sale. That’s the big thing about the fair. Yeah, we’ve had the concerts and the rodeo, but without the kids showing animals, do you really have a fair?
“The goal of every fair should be the kids.”
The Lovington event is more than just a county fair. The Lea County Fair and Rodeo has been recognized as one of the top expositions in the region, and there’s good reason. There is a concert six nights of the nine-day event, and the rodeo will feature the very best in the game, cowboys and cowgirls who will have traveled hundreds of miles to compete in southeastern New Mexico and some of the top animals in the business from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.
“I think one of the things that’s still part of the 80-year tradition is the rodeo,” Helton said. “We continue to draw the top 10 cowboys in each event.”
It’s something Jake McClure surely would brag about if he were still on the rodeo trail. It’s something many people from Lea County talk about each summer as they anticipate the goings-on in Lovington.
“We’re going to be working with the Western Heritage Museum and recognize some of the older people in the community that have contributed so much over the years,” Helton said. “We all wanted to provide something for the people that have contributed something to the heritage of Lea County.”
It should be quite the celebration.
DODGE CITY, Kan. – There are only a handful of accomplishments funnyman Cody Sosebee hasn’t achieved in a strong rodeo career.
He’s been nominated five times as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year, including each of the past four seasons. He’s worked many of the top events in the sport’s history and has been recognized as a premier entertainer. But he’s never worked the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.
That changes in 2015. For the first time in the event’s ProRodeo-Hall-of-Fame history, the Arkansas man will be a featured player in the six nights of world-class rodeo action, with the Xtreme Bulls planned for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, and five incredible rodeo performances set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena.
“I’m excited about going there as I’ve ever been about working any rodeo,” Sosebee said. “I’ve passed that rodeo arena every year when I leave my home for Cheyenne (Wyo.), and I’ve always wanted to be there.
“It’s one of the most historic Western towns and one of the most recognized rodeos in the country. It’s a tradition rich place, and I’ve been a lot of great places in my career. This is like a feather in your hat when you work an event like Dodge City.”
It’s an honor to work the elite events in the sport. Not only has he worked Cheyenne, Sosebee also has been a primary entertainer at the River City Rodeo in Omaha, Neb., and the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.
“When a committee of the stature of Dodge City asks you to come work their rodeo, it’s like Michael Jordan asking if you want to play a game of basketball,” he said. “You get to work with an A team of personnel and an A team list of stock. Anytime you get to work with people who excel in their field, it only makes me that much better.”
In addition to his clowning nomination, the former competitor also has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year two of the past three seasons. But there’s much more to Sosebee than meets the eye. Over his lifetime, he’s competed in nearly every rodeo event possible and was at the top of his game in bareback riding.
It’s part of the life growing up in a family that was heavily involved in rodeo. His father was a pickup man, so Sosebee has been part of the sport as long as he can remember.
“I got into clowning by accident by filling in for guys,” said Sosebee, who also owns a barbecue restaurant in his hometown of Charleston, Ark., just 25 miles east of Fort Smith, Ark. “I didn’t know where I was going to go with my rodeo career when I quit riding barebacks, and it turned into a good living. I get to see the world.
“I live in a community with one four-way stop, and I get to go to Dodge City, Kansas, and a lot of other great places where as soon as you pull into town, you are considered a rock star for a week.”
A born competitor, the clown has made the adjustments he needed to get the true fix after a lifetime of being part of the contest.
“I’ve always been a competitor in anything I did, from football to basketball to when I was in freestyle bullfighting,” he said. “I miss putting my hand in the riggin’ and nodding my head to be 80 points to win the rodeo, but I’m a realist. I’m 43 years old. While most of the guys I rodeoed with have slowed down and have found jobs, I get to be in the arena and get to make a living in rodeo doing something I love.”
Sosebee also plays to his strengths. Bigger than many in the game, he showcases a true athleticism that is rarely seen among men of his stature. It’s comedy at the purest level.
“Having the ability to laugh at myself is probably my biggest strength,” he said. “I don’t take anything too serious. When I’m watching a comedian, the funniest thing I see is when they’re honestly open and having a good time. I want the fans to see that I’m a real person and I’m having fun, and they can have fun with me.”
That’s why Sosebee has excelled as one of the premier rodeo clowns in the game. That’s why the volunteer committee is bringing him to town. It’s another key reason Dodge City Roundup Rodeo is always at the top of the game.
Ram pickups pulling elaborate horse trailers and toting world-class ropers and steer wrestlers have left Pecos, Texas, and Reno, Nev., and are making their ways to locales all across North America.
They’re meeting other rigs and customized vans toting bull riders, saddle bronc riders and bareback riders.
This is Cowboy Christmas, the busiest time of the ProRodeo season. It features numerous rodeos located all across the United States and Canada, and each stop offers something for every contestant who makes a living in the sport.
The major stops include Prescott, Ariz.; Window Rock, Ariz.; Cody, Wyo.; Greeley, Colo.; Springdale, Ark.; Molalla, Ore.; St. Paul, Ore.; Livingston, Mont.; and Red Lodge, Mont., just to name a few. The commonality between them is the enticement of large paydays and many miles in between.
“The Fourth is really tough because you’re going on little to no sleep and spend most of your time getting from one place to another,” said Taos Muncy, a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider and one of the key members of the Tate Branch Auto Group team of ProRodeo cowboys. “A lot of things can happen, good and bad. I’ve had terrible Fourths where I’ve won nothing. That’s real humbling.”
As a roughstock cowboy, Muncy and his traveling posse don’t have to haul their own horses. The timed-event cowboys do. No matter the traveling arrangements, the logistics of getting from one place to another can be nightmarish.
It’s something all cowboys must face, including others on the “Riding for the Brand” team: tie-down roping brothers Clif and Clint Cooper and their legendary father, Roy Cooper; steer roper Marty Jones; and team roping twins Jake and Jim Ross Cooper. All have ties to southeastern New Mexico, just like the Tate Branch Auto Group, which has dealerships in Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs.
Though New Mexico is always home, the Tate Branch Auto Group Cowboys will spend the next few weeks on the rodeo trail. They all rodeo for a living and need every dollar they can win, but there’s much more to it. Dollars equal championship points, and the contestant in each event with the most earnings at the conclusion of the season wins the world champion’s gold buckle.
Oftentimes, timed-event hands will have more than one rig on the road during the hectic portion of the season to make sure they capitalize on as many opportunities as possible. That also showcases their talent in riding more than one horse at a time. But having more than one customized vehicle on the road is also helpful to Muncy and his traveling crew.
Right now, for example, he is in the van owned by traveling partner Tyrel Larsen, while Muncy’s is in northern Colorado. They’ll fly around to several places before returning to Greeley for the Stampede, then moving on to other rodeos.
“For me, the heavy part of the summer run is from the end of June to the end of July,” he said. “I’ll go straight through the next few weeks then on to Calgary (Alberta). I’ll be going every single day from now until the 13th of July, getting on one to two broncs a day.”
That’s just how hectic things can get over a short period of time. When it works out, it’s phenomenal. Muncy has won more than $30,000 over a few days centered around the Fourth of July holiday.
The Corona, N.M., cowboy has been among the top five in the world standings for much of the 2015 season. A recent dry spell has given him even more incentive to make things happen over the next few days.
“Everything was going really good until last weekend,” said Muncy, who won the college title in 2007, then followed that with world titles in 2007 and 2011. “I went to four rodeos and just had a lot of bad luck. It was just one of those weekends, but those things can turn around. When you’re on fire, you better keep entering and go with the flow. It can turn around quick. You’ve got to be able to handle the highs and the lows.”
That’s the way the rodeo rolls. It’s why the Tate Branch Auto Group cowboys lean on the support they get from the dealerships and the rest of the team involved.
“You just have to stay positive and go with the flow,” Muncy said. “Sometimes you have to show up late and get on, but when you get there, you try hard and give it your best. That’s all you can ask.”
That’s how more gold buckles are crafted.
PECOS, Texas – Neither Ryan Gray nor Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket is a stranger to being part bareback riding scores in the 90s.
They worked together Friday night for a 92-point ride to take the bareback riding lead at the West of the Pecos Rodeo inside Buck Jackson Arena. It is the highest marked bareback ride so far in 2015 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and more than three months remain in the regular season.
Gray, an eight-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Cheney, Wash., is the No. 11 bareback rider in this week’s world standings. With one performance remaining in Pecos, he should collect a big check out of the World’s Oldest Rodeo.
Gray is one of just four cowboys who are part of the world record for highest-marked ride in rodeo, posting a 94 on Grass Dancer, another great Pete Carr bucking horse, in Eagle, Colo., in 2009. Gray also won the fifth round of the 2011 NFR with a 90-point ride on Pete Carr’s MGM Deuces Night, which won the 2012 PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year.
Dirty Jacket is the reigning world champion bareback horse and has been voted as one of the top three horses in the game each of the past three seasons. This marks the third time this year that cowboys have exceeded the 90-point barrier on the 11-year-old bay gelding – Jessy Davis was 93 points to win the San Angelo, Texas, Cinch Shootout in February (a non-PRCA event), while Winn Ratliff posted a 90 just two weeks ago to share the title in Weatherford, Texas.
Over his career, Dirty Jacket has been part of 90-point-plus rides numerous times. In 2014, he matched moves with Richmond Champion in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Steven Dent in Stephenville, Texas, for 91 points; those were the highest marked rides of the season. Two seasons ago, young gun Taylor Price won the West of the Pecos buckle with a 91-point ride on Dirty Jacket.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo is one of the greatest spectacles in the sport.
It’s part of Cowboy Christmas, an annual showcase of lucrative rodeos set around the July 4 holiday. More importantly, it features the greatest athletes in the game, from world champion cowboys and cowgirls to some of the most impressive bucking animals from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.
The rodeo is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 2-Saturday, July 4, at Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena (because Window Rock is on the Navajo Nation, the kickoff each night will be during Mountain Standard Time; it is not the same as Arizona, which does not recognize Daylight Savings time).
“I think the thing that makes our rodeo so great is our stock contractor,” said Wanda Nelson, spokeswoman for the Navajo Nation Fair, which produces the annual rodeo. “The last few years, that has been a big thing for us. The contractor and the contestants: we’ve actually had the NFR here in the (Navajo) Nation.”
In addition to numerous world champions that are part of the field, the Window Rock rodeo also will feature world champion bucking animals like Dirty Jacket, the reigning PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year, and two other world champion equine athletes in Big Tex and Real Deal. That’s the type of power Pete Carr Pro Rodeo has in the Navajo Nation.
The key is producing an event that is talked about around the Navajo Nation, which has been the case since the Carr team has been part of the Fourth of July event. This year’s event will include announcer Andy Stewart, a nominee for PRCA Announcer of the Year who is in his fifth year in Window Rock, and funnyman Troy Lerwill, one of the most decorated entertainers in ProRodeo.
Another keen aspect to the three-day rodeo will be the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo bucking stock, another attractive feature for rodeo’s greatest stars. Each of the past two seasons, 27 Carr animals have been selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“Overall, he’s just got the top-rated stock,” Nelson said of Carr. “His personality is a great fit for us, and so is his love for rodeo. He’s been really good to us and has worked really well with us.”
The work is putting on the best rodeo possible for the greatest fans in the game. That’s what the Navajo Nation has come to expect with the annual Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo.
DUNCAN, Okla. – Jesse James Kirby has been in this position before.
The veteran cowboy holds the lead in the Prairie Circuit’s saddle bronc riding standings, edging another veteran, Wade Sundell of Coleman, Okla., by about $1,400 with just three months remaining in the 2015 season.
“I’ve been in the circuit situation before where I had a good lead and had some guys catch me,” said Kirby, 33, of Dodge City, Kan. “But it’s not up to me. My main thing is taking it one rodeo at a time and letting things fall where they fall.”
It may be cliché, but that philosophy is working quite well for Kirby. He’s earned five event titles already this season, including three in the circuit, made up of contestants and events primarily in the Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma region.
He’d like to carry that momentum over to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15-Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. After all, he is the reigning circuit finals champion, winning the average title in 2014 by having the best three-round cumulative score among the finalists.
“I’ve been very consistent lately,” said Kirby, who has earned championships at circuit stops in Bennington, Kan.; Strong City, Kan.; and the May rodeo in Duncan. “I’m just trying to keep it simple, not worrying about anything and just having fun. When a guy gets to thinking about too much, that’s when he fights his head and struggles.
“I’m just keeping it as easy as possible, lifting on my rein, keeping my chin tucked and having a good spur out.”
No matter how much success one has, the top athletes in the game realize basic fundamentals make the difference between riding well and struggling. There also is the thought to continue doing what’s working.
“I needed to get a little ahead so when I get out of the circuit a little bit, I have a bit of a cushion,” he said, referring to the ProRodeo schedule that will see him traveling across the country and outside the region most of the next three months. “I would like to hit Woodward (Okla.) for sure and maybe Pretty Prairie (Kan.) before I head out West. Those are good circuit rodeos, and Woodward adds a lot of money, so that’s always a big part of it.”
Cowboys and cowgirls not only compete to pay their bills, but each dollar counts as championship points. So far this season, Kirby has pocketed more than $9,100, with $6,481 coming from his earnings inside the Prairie Circuit. He is a three-time year-end circuit champion and a two-time winner of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“I’m going to keep riding the way I have been and hit the circuit rodeos I can,” he said. “During the week of Dodge City, a guy can hit (Kansas stops in) Dodge City, Hill City, Abilene and Phillipsburg, and there are some others that are co-approved with the circuit. That’s a good week to be a circuit cowboy, because they’re all close together.
“If a guy can draw pretty good that week and have a real good week, it can make a big difference in what it takes to get to the circuit finals.”
That’s vital. Only the top 12 contestants in each event earn the right to compete in Duncan the third weekend in October. The world of rodeo features a tiered system; not only do the contestants battle for a spot in the season-ending finale, there are a number of cowboys and cowgirls who also are battling for a spot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand championship.
As a full-time cowboy, that’s one of Kirby’s goals for 2015.
“I’ve been on a roll, so I’m going to go out West and fight with the wolves a little bit,” Kirby said, referring to testing his skills against regular NFR qualifiers and world champions. “Praise the Lord, I’ve been drawing really good and riding really good. I’m just going to try to take advantage of it and make a little statement that I’m still here.
“I’m going to have fun and do this while I can, because I’m not going to have much more time doing it.”
As a past circuit champion, Kirby wants to continue to push for another regional title. Qualifying for the circuit finals would be important, and so would performing well once he gets to Duncan, but there also is a bigger prize dangling on the line for the Kansas cowboy.
“The circuit’s always been important to me, because it’s close to home and I like the circuit so much,” he said. “But I also haven’t won the saddle yet at the Ram National Circuit Finals.”
The year-end and finals champion in each event from all 12 ProRodeo circuits qualify for the RNCFR, which takes place in Kissimmee, Fla. Each national champion not only wins a trophy saddle but also a trophy buckle, thousands of dollars and a $20,000 voucher toward a new Ram pickup.
“I’d like to have that, especially now that Florida has stepped up and has more added money. If we can still compete and win a lot of money, then we’re going to do that.
“There’s a lot of money in our circuit, too. There are a lot of good rodeos in this circuit and a lot of good people. I want to keep supporting them as much as I can and help the younger guys who are just getting started.”
Kirby has been doing that for his entire ProRodeo career. There’s no reason to change now.
She got her chance last week during the 2015 College National Finals Rodeo. She placed among the top 10 in each of the four go-rounds and finished tied for fifth in the final standings in Casper, Wyo.
“It was really good,” said Barnes, a senior from Buckeye, Ariz. “My plan was to be 6 (seconds) on all the first three rounds, and it was great to be able to do that. I wish I would’ve had a better run on the last one. My horse lunged when I swung my leg, and she doesn’t usually do that. I lost my balance a little and was longer than I wanted to be (on time).
“I think I still would’ve been fine, but my string came out of my belt loop, and it got stuck underneath the goat. That slowed me down a lot.”
She posted runs of 6.6, 6.7 and 6.4 seconds in the first three rounds to qualify for the championship round in the No. 2 position behind eventual national champion Loni Pearce of Southern Arkansas University. Barnes’ 7.6-second final run moved her into a two-way tie for fifth place to finish out her college career.
“I thought it was a good way to go out,” she said. “I would’ve loved to own a national title, but being fifth in the nation was pretty neat.”
Barnes was the top finisher among six Northwestern athletes who competed at the collegiate championship, which features the top two teams in the region and the top three regional individuals in each event. Barnes finished the 2014-15 Central Plains Region season No. 2 in the standings behind teammate Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D.
The Northwestern women won the Central Plains Region, so the Rangers had four women part of the CNFR lineup, including breakaway ropers Sammi Lee McGuire of Backus, Minn., and Karley Kile of Overbrook, Kan. The men’s team included team roping header Dalton Richards of Hawkinsville, Ga., and steer wrestler Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah.
Barnes was the only Ranger to qualify for the championship round. Still, the Northwestern women earned 147.5 points and finished 15th in the team standings.
“It was awesome to be part of this team this year,” Barnes said. “These girls were great. I really knew we had the team to win the region this year, and every girl had that set on their minds. Everyone was there for each other. I’ve been part of a lot of other sports teams, but this was the greatest connection I’ve ever felt.
“The funny thing was it came in a sport where you’re actually trying to beat one another, but we were more of a team than any other sports team I’ve been on.”
That made for a special way to close out a career at a college that was more than a thousand miles from home.
“My career at Northwestern was great,” she said. “I learned so much about life going away from home and having to do a lot of things on my own. I grew up a lot. I met a lot of great people. I had a great coach in Stockton; he was just awesome, and I wouldn’t want any other coach.
“I learned how to win. I learned how to prepare myself for different situations and how not to let one thing keep me down. I learned how to keep going even when there’s a barrier in front of you. You have to learn to get around the barrier.”
Now the next barrier is in front of Barnes. She changed majors from marketing to elementary education, so she will transfer to Arizona State University to obtain her bachelor’s degree.
“I have a colt that’s pretty good in barrels, so I’ll rodeo some,” she said. “I’ll finish school and go to some rodeos, then get a career.”
PECOS, Texas – The history is there in this West Texas town of more than 8,700 people.
Next week will mark the 133rd year of the West of the Pecos Rodeo, the oldest event in the sport. It takes more than a history book to tell the tale of the big-time rodeo. A lesson in current events is also a valuable tool.
You see, the West of the Pecos Rodeo is the perfect combination of traditional Western values mixed with modern showmanship, thanks in large part to the staff from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock company that produces the rodeo. It’s just what fans expect when they show up for this year’s event, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday June 24-Saturday, June 27, at Buck Jackson Arena.
“One of the things Pete has helped us with tremendously is because he’s got such a good livestock lineup, he’s got the quality of animals that brings the top cowboys,” said Joe Keese, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “The good news for the fans that follow the sport of rodeo is that no matter what night they come to our rodeo, they’ll get to see their favorite guys go.”
Carr has a world-class lineup of bucking stars. In fact, no other stock contractor in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has taken more animals to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo than Carr, who, in each of the past two years, has had 27 animals selected to buck at ProRodeo’s grand championship.
Most of those will be part of the action in Pecos, which is a major stop on the rodeo trail for the greatest cowboys in the game. In fact, Pecos champs are often among the elite that qualify regularly for the NFR.
“The cowboys like coming because of the tradition,” Keese said. “We do lot of things at our rodeo that are to the cowboys’ benefit, and I think they like that.”
“With this arena and our set up, it’s a test of the cowboy’s skills, and it’s tradition. People want that Pecos buckle.”
This year’s event also will feature Justin Rumford, the three-time reigning PRCA Clown of the Year. Rumford grew up in a rodeo family and has done nearly everything possible in and around a rodeo arena. Now he carries that experience into the role as a key piece of the entertainment pie and the event’s funnyman.
But he’s just a small part of a big puzzle that is the Pecos rodeo.
“An awful lot of the cowboys filled their permits in Pecos,” Keese said, referring to the development stage of ProRodeo whereby permit-holders must earn a minimum amount of money through competition to be eligible to become members of the PRCA. “A lot come back here every year because they came with their granddad, then their dad, and they want to keep that going.”
BIG SPRING, Texas – A small group of fewer than 30 people work year-round for one simple goal: to produce the best Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo possible.
“I cannot brag enough on the volunteers that help put on our rodeo,” said Dane Driver, a longtime member of the volunteer committee that organizes the annual rodeo, now in its 82nd year. “If it wasn’t for the strength of the individuals on the committee, it wouldn’t happen. Their heart is putting that rodeo on.
“The small-business owners who are on the committee always reroute their time and energy, and they have people in their offices who focus on the rodeo. They have to make major adjustments to their businesses to handle what they handle.”
Driver knows about the work. He’s the third generation of his family to be involved in aspects of the celebration. By the time the competition begins later this week, the committee will hand over the bulk of the production to the staff from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based stock contracting company that has been part of the Big Spring rodeo for more than a decade.
“We are Pete’s first rodeo, and we’re proud of that,” Driver said. “I remember when he met with my dad and said what he’s about. It’s been that and more. It’s been a hell of a building process watching his company grow. The good thing for us is that he’s grown our production. The production he’s done for us has done nothing but get better.
“What he does for our production is noticed. A lot of people can put on a rodeo, but very few can put a production on at the level Pete does. He constantly strives to have the best people in the industry with him.”
The Carr firm produces about 30 rodeos a year. Each of the past two seasons, 27 Carr animals were selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale that takes place in Las Vegas each December.
“What I really like about Pete is that he has treated us like we’re one of the big winter rodeos,” Driver said. “He doesn’t treat us small even though we’re a small rodeo. He gets a lot of respect for that. It makes the local guys feel like they’re doing all this for a reason.
“When our committee hands him the reins, they’re confident they’re going to get the best bang for the buck. Pete’s going to carry on and showcase what they’ve been working their tails off all year long.”
In addition to having a strong production presence and great bucking animals, the Big Spring rodeo also will feature entertainer Troy Lerwill, one of the most decorated funnymen in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“I’m excited about Troy being back,” Driver said. “He brings a great element to our show. We’re able to bring something in that’s different, and we’ve had a lot of people come to our rodeo from out of state. They may not be the typical rodeo fans, but we strive to give them something different so they’re talking about it the next day. Troy gives us that opportunity.”
Most importantly, though, the Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo is about carrying on a tradition that has been running continuously for more than eight decades.
“We feel like we put on an awesome show and have been able to do it 82 years running,” Driver said. “We have a strong history, and we have a good amount of second-, third- and fourth-generation families that are still involved in this rodeo. The history and the legacy of what we’re able to do is what makes me the proudest.”
Economical entertainment and a great legacy is just what the West Texas community is all about.