BRIDGEPORT, Texas – Commitment to the community is the key reason several locals are part of the volunteers who orchestrate the Bridgeport rodeo.
“With Butterfield Stage Days, we try to draw some people from all walks of life to come and see what all we have to offer,” said Katherine Hudson, now in her 20th year as one of the volunteers for the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at Sunset Retreat Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
“With the rodeo and the festival, we want to have enough to do to attract not just those who are in the rodeo, but the people who follow the rodeo. We have something for them to do during the day time.”
The rodeo will feature a brilliant mix of true athleticism and family entertainment, showcased by the brightest stars in professional rodeo. That includes the likelihood of Wise County world champions like Trevor Brazile and his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper, both of whom brought more gold buckles home to north Texas in 2014.
But there’s so much more to the rodeo than the incredible competition; for the first time in the event’s history, highly decorated entertainer Troy “The Wild Child” Lerwill will showcase his talents and brand of comedy for the Bridgeport crowd.
“You learn something new every year, and you learn things you can do to make it better,” said David Turnbow, chairman of the volunteer committee. “We want to bring in things that will interest the crowd and try to get the whole community out there.”
When competition and entertainment are combined, it makes for quite an entertaining two days.
“I enjoy putting on something in a small city that brings out a wide variety of people that like to watch but don’t go anywhere else to watch,” Hudson said. “They have a chance at watching a professional cowboy that they might not have seen.”
The local rodeo typically features regular qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Take the 2014 event, for example: Three-time world champion Will Lowe won the bareback riding title in Bridgeport, while Brazile – who owns a ProRodeo record 21 world titles – won the all-around crown. Other winners included National Finals qualifiers like saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley and steer roper Chet Herren.
“Our rodeo and the festival downtown are pretty darn huge for the community,” Turnbow said. “Just the tax dollars that this thing brings in is incredible, with people staying in hotels, eating in the local restaurants and stopping at our fuel stations.
“I think the rodeo and the festival goes hand in hand very well and does some great things for our community.”
BRIDGEPORT, Texas – Like everyone else who volunteers each year to help produce the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo, Susan Miller’s focus is on the community and not for any rewards that might come her way.
She has received one anyway. In 2014, Miller was named the rodeo’s committee person of the year, an honor chosen by her peers as recognition for the time and talents she’s shared as a volunteer.
“I have spent seven years working on this rodeo, not for my own personal gain or to win an award, but for this community to have something special as this successful professional rodeo,” said Miller, whose full-time post is as the marketing director for James Woods Motors in the neighboring Texas communities of Denton and Decatur. “To be recognized for what I would have done to contribute to the success is absolutely awesome.”
The work continues as the committee prepares for this year’s rodeo, the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at Sunset Retreat Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
“Susan has the mentality of getting after it,” said David Turnbow, chairman of the rodeo committee. “I can call her and ask her for help, and she’s all over it. She’ll do anything at any time, and she never complains. The key is she does it with a smile on her face every time.
“It’s good to have people who enjoy volunteering and doing this.”
“I’ve always been a community-minded person,” she said. “I’m raising my kids in this community, and I want it to thrive, be prosperous and be a place they can be proud of. The rodeo is just one small part of the overall, picture, but when that event is successful, many other factors in the community during that weekend are also successful.
“I have a son that rodeos, so being involved specifically in this rodeo helps me better understand everything he participates in.”
She also has realized how much work goes into producing the Bridgeport rodeo. The planning began shortly after last year’s event concluded, and the labor has intensified over the last few months. The core group of volunteers handles everything necessary to make the one weekend a year a success. That means a lot of man-hours for each person on the committee.
“We don’t just show up out there on Friday and Saturday night of the rodeo weekend,” Turnbow said. “There are so many little things that take place, from having the right relationships with sponsors to making sure the promotion is done to setting up the arena.
“Everything that seems so flawless during the weekend of the rodeo has taken months to prepare. We wanted to go back to having the concert like we used to have, so having Phil Hamilton come in has been a big change. Somebody had to make sure it all happened.”
The work is a vital part of making sure the community benefits.
“Bridgeport may be a small town, but it is made up of people who have big ideas for our community,” Miller said. “Those ideas are not just talked about; they are considered to be done. We welcome growth, and we welcome new ideas. I think we prosper at the thought of innovation.”
BRIDGEPORT, Texas – If music is deep in Phil Hamilton’s heart, Texas music is his soul.
He will put it all on the line Saturday, May 9, during a special concert as part of the annual Butterfield Stage Days celebration. The two-day gathering also features the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at Sunset Retreat Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
Hamilton originally is from Burleson, Texas, about an hour southeast of Bridgeport. His style of music is the perfect fit for the Butterfield Stage Days celebration, and it’s why event organizers made plans for the Texas native to be part of the show.
“We’re very excited to have Phil Hamilton being the entertainment Saturday night,” said Susan Miller, a key member of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “It’s generated a great deal of excitement for us, and I think the community feels the same way.”
Hamilton has loved music since childhood, growing up in a musical family. His grandmother sang opera, and his aunt sang country. As a young adult, he discovered Texas acts like Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison and Pat Green, and Hamilton found his niche.
“I started writing some originals, but it didn’t come natural to me at first,” Hamilton said in his biography. “Back then I hadn’t had enough experiences with love and loss and all that stuff to make great songs.”
He continued to practice his writing skills and focusing on it.
“That’s when things started to take off,” he said. “The next thing I knew I was being offered a deal with Winding Road Music to record a full record.”
Nothing To Lose was released in 2009 and featured two singles that reached the top 15 on the Texas charts. His second album, Renegade Rock N Roll, featured three No. 1 songs: “Bad,” “Running” and “Back of a ’73.” He followed that with a third album from a legendary Fort Worth, Texas, club, Live At The Whiskey Girl Saloon.
“I was excited to show what we do live,” Hamilton said. “My only rule was that it had to be real authentic and 100 percent live, not re-cut or re-tracked, and we did it that way and it worked. It was just a phenomenal experience, and we captured the music just the way I wanted.”
When he’s not on the road playing before raucous audiences, Hamilton enjoys his time at home in Grandbury, Texas, where he combines his passion for music with the outdoors. It’s a great place for him to unwind and open the possibilities for his songwriting.
“I live on the road, but I don’t write on the road,” he said. “There are too many things going on, and it’s too tough for me to put my thoughts down out there. Hunting and the outdoors are my main things. When I’m home, half of the week I’m always out in the woods hunting or fishing.”
ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State University women’s rodeo team has inched closer to a major goal for this season.
With a dominating performance this past weekend, the Rangers are well within reach of clinching the Central Plains Region title. Northwestern posted 355 points to win the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo title and push its lead in the circuit standings to more than 700 points with just two events remaining on the 2014-15 season.
“I was proud of everybody,” said Stockton Graves, the Rangers coach. “We competed well. The women did well. The men actually did well, even though it didn’t show up in the points.”
Senior Karley Kile of Overbrook, Kan., led the way with Northwestern, winning both the all-around and breakaway roping titles in Weatherford. But she wasn’t alone. In fact, Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., was second in the all-around and, like Kile, qualified for the championship round in breakaway roping and goat tying.
Kile is third in the region in breakaway and is tied for eighth in goat tying. She has a chance to move to the top of the standings in the all-around heading into the Fort Hays (Kan.) State University rodeo this coming weekend and the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Doc Gardner Memorial rodeo the final weekend of April.
“This really doesn’t change anything,” said Kyle, a two-time goat-tying qualifier for the College National Finals Rodeo. “I’m still going to go for every rodeo.
“It’s pretty exciting, since I’ve never done any good in the breakaway.”
Miller leads the region standings in goat tying, followed by teammate Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz. In Weatherford, the Rangers women held eight spots in the short go-round: four in breakaway and two each in goat tying and barrel racing. In addition to Kile winning the breakaway title, Elli Price of Leady, Okla., finished in a three-way tie for third place in the average. They were joined in the final round by Sage Allen of Pawhuska, Okla.
Kile won the opening round with a 2.7-second run, then finished second in the short round with a 3.4. Her 6.1-second cumulative time on two runs was four-tenths of a second better than the field. Miller, meanwhile, placed second in the goat-tying aggregate with a two-run time of 16.2 seconds.
“It was just a matter of time,” Graves said of Kile’s top finish. “We needed her to do well, and I was plenty excited for her.”
In barrel racing, Kelsey Cloud of Elk City, Okla., finished third with a two-run time of 35.33 seconds, while Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., also made the final round. Every move helped pave the way for the team to return to the college finals, set for June 14-20 in Casper, Wyo.
“Shayna has obviously helped a lot, and Lauren has (too),” Kile said. “All the rest of the girls have stepped up their game this year. If we can take a team out there, it definitely helps out the school at the college finals.”
The Northwestern men finished fifth at Southwestern but had seven cowboys qualify for the short round – five were in team roping, led by senior heeler Dustin Searcy of Mooreland, Okla., who won both rounds and the average while roping with header Hunter Munsell of Western Oklahoma State College.
“I’ve known (Hunter) since I was a little kid,” Searcy said. “We practiced a lot when we were kids. “We’ve always had a natural partnership where we roped good together and have always had a lot of success.”
Searcy was joined in the short round by Northwestern teammates Jonathan Nixon of Paradise, Texas and Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah,who together finished fifth in the average, and Mike McGinn of Haines, Ore., and Stephen Culling of Fort St. John, British Columbia. Tie-down roper Maverick Harper finished sixth with a two-run cumulative time of 21.0 seconds, while Allred finished fifth in steer wrestling with a two-run time of 15.2.
The Northwestern men sit fifth in the team standings but have several cowboys who are in position to qualify for the college finals by the time the season concludes in a week and a half.
“We’ll just keep them focused on their goals and the plan, and hopefully we’ll succeed,” Graves said.
GUYMON, Okla. – There’s something in the water in Texas County, Okla.
This place is the breeding ground for great cowboys, whether they’re raised here or have transplanted to the Oklahoma Panhandle. There are plenty of great ones.
The proving ground has always been the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. It will be again during this year’s championship, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“It’s an important one for me, for sure,” said Trell Etbauer, a four-time Linderman Award winner from Goodwell, Okla., just 10 miles southwest of Guymon. “It’s my hometown rodeo and the closest big rodeo I go to all year.”
The son of two-time world champion Robert Etbauer and his wife, Sue, Trell grew up in this neck of the woods. He was a star athlete at Goodwell High School and a champion cowboy from youth rodeo through college at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
But he’s one of many elite rodeo cowboys with ties to the Oklahoma Panhandle who have made their name on the ProRodeo trail. A list of world champions from the area is a good indication of that.
In addition to Robert Etbauer, there are 10 other gold buckles that have been earned by cowboys from the area once known as No Man’s Land: Billy Etbauer has the most with five saddle bronc riding world titles, followed by Taos Muncy, who has two; fellow bronc riders Tom Reeves and Jeff Willert join heeler Jhett Johnson with one apiece.
They are just a few of the elite contestants who make their living in ProRodeo who have ties to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Atop the list, though, is Trevor Brazile, a 21-time world champion who grew up in nearby Gruver, Texas. He is a 45-time qualifier to the National Finals that also owns a record 12 all-around gold buckles.
He isn’t the only north Texas Panhandle cowboy to make the NFR; he was joined by Bray Armes, who also grew up near Gruver. This past December, they were joined in Las Vegas by Muncy and fellow bronc riders Cort Scheer, a Panhandle State alumnus and two-time Reserve World Champion, and Tyler Corrington, who lives near Gruver; and Joe Frost, a senior at Panhandle State who finished the 2014 season as the Reserve World Champion.
This is the perfect proving ground, but Pioneer Days Rodeo is a tough place to win. Nearly 1,000 contestants sign up to be part of the week long competition that concludes the first weekend in May each season.
“A lot of times, Guymon falls after the California run, so a lot of the guys heading back to Texas can hit it,” Trell Etbauer said. “It’s also one of the bigger rodeos, and all the guys go to those.”
Those are the attractive features for the sport’s greatest stars, but there are many more. The prize money is a key ingredient, but so is the competition. All steer ropers participate in four go-rounds, with the top 32 times returning for a fifth round. In tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling, each contestant is afforded two runs, with the top 40 teams returning for a third round.
Barrel racers all compete in the first round on Friday morning, then the top 40 times are brought back during the performances for the second round. When it’s all mixed together, it allows for a cut-throat approach to the big purse.
“I’ve placed in some rounds and placed in the average in calf roping and steer wrestling, but I’d really like to win it at least once,” Etbauer said. “You always want to win your hometown rodeo, and it’s usually the toughest to win. Guymon is especially tough, because so many great cowboys are there.”
TOP ARTISTS, WESTERN EVENTS MAKES FOR FUN 4 DAYS AT SYCAMORE SPRINGS RANCH
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – A beautiful spring leads to incredible nighttime views in picturesque eastern Oklahoma.
There’s no better setting for star gazing than in the rolling hills near this historic community. The stars get a little brighter during Cord McCoy’s Western Days, set for Thursday, April 16-Sunday, April 19, at Sycamore Springs Ranch just south of Locust Grove.
“When I came up with the idea for Western Days, I wanted to attract people to the lifestyle we live every day and show everyone all the things that go into a true Western festival,” said McCoy, a champion rodeo cowboy who, with brother Jet, was a three-time fan favorite on “The Amazing Race,” a CBS-TV reality series. “What we’ve come up with is so much more.
“We’re going to have great country Western artists the first three nights, including legendary Red Stegall, David Frizzell and the Jason Roberts Band. I’m excited about that, because it’s a great way to conclude a full day.”
Western Days is loaded with plenty of opportunities for festival-goers. In addition to the plethora of events going on at the various arenas on the sprawling Sycamore Springs Ranch, a nightly rodeo will be part of each day’s festivities. In fact, the event will conclude at 6 p.m. Sunday with the Cord McCoy Bull Riding Challenge, which will feature a $10,000 bounty bull and Frank Newsome Freestyle Bullfights.
“We want to make every day exciting,” McCoy said. “That’s why we’re having the concerts and why we want to feature rodeo every evening.”
This is the perfect venue for cowboys of all types – from those who have lived their lives horseback to those who have just dreamed about it. That’s why there are numerous festivities taking place throughout each day: Western events and competitions, chuck wagon feasts and a daily exotic trail ride across the beautiful Sycamore Springs Ranch.
A Western trade show will be a major part of each day’s activities. The opening day will feature a Western showdown, ranch sorting practice, the Ultimate Western Challenge and Dick Pieper Horsemanship, appealing to all levels of cowboys.
Friday’s festivities will include those and a cattle dog demonstration, the ranch sorting competition, a team roping championship, a steer roping contest and a miniature rodeo tour. Added on Saturday will be the Silver Select Horse Sale and a barrel racing challenge, while Sunday will include the Western Worship Service and a ranch rodeo.
“I was raised around all this and love it, but I wanted it to be more,” McCoy said. “I’ve traveled around the world three times, and I wanted to appeal to every person that has ever watched a Western or ever thought about being a cowboy.
“I want the guy who wears a suit every day to come and enjoy and trade out his business shoes for cowboy boots for a few days. I think this is something he’ll enjoy, too.”
GUYMON, Okla. – Dirty Jacket is one of the most decorated bucking horses in ProRodeo.
The 11-year-old bay gelding from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo is the reigning Bareback Horse of the Year as voted on by members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He also has been one of the top three horses in the year-end voting each of the past three seasons.
At the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December, the athletic horse proved the accolades, guiding cowboys to go-round victories both times he bucked inside the Thomas & Mack Center: Richmond Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, won the fifth round, while Caleb Bennett of Tremonton, Utah, claimed the 10th-round title.
“There’s not another horse like him,” said Champion, who also won the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days title after a 91-point ride in July. “Dirty Jacket might’ve even looked better than he did that day in Cheyenne.”
The fifth and 10th rounds featured the greatest bucking horses in rodeo, an elite list of phenomenal athletes. Even then, Dirty Jacket stood out. Now he will have a chance to stand out again at the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena. It’s a place where he’s guided cowboys to the prestigious Guymon title four times in the last seven years.
“There wasn’t a bad horse in the pen, but to have Dirty Jacket again at the NFR and to win the round was awesome,” said Champion, who shared the Guymon title last year on Fancy Free, another great Carr bucking horse. “There’s not another night that you get to walk down the alley with that caliber of horse standing all next to each other.
“That same feeling runs in all of us to see that kind of horse lined up for us, just standing outside the Thomas & Mack. That’s what dreams are made of in this sport.”
It’s the same feeling Bennett had when he prepared for the final night of the competition. It had been a rough week for the Utah cowboy, who had placed in just one round prior to the 10th night.
“I couldn’t have been more blessed and ask for anything more than to end it the way I did on Dirty Jacket,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal horse and definitely one of the ones you want to have in this round.”
The powerful gelding is one of four Pete Carr horses that have received the top honor in bareback riding, joining pasture-mates like Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night. In 2013, when Dirty Jacket was named Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse, he helped cowboys to at least a share of the title 12 of 13 times he performed during the regular season. In 2014, his wins were just as miraculous.
Champion’s 91 in Cheyenne was one of two of the highest marked rides of the campaign. The other was by Steven Dent, who rode Dirty Jacket for a matching 91 on the final weekend of the regular season at the Cowboy Capital of the World Rodeo in Stephenville, Texas, in September.
“Any time you can draw one that everybody wants, you’re happy with it whether you’re in that situation or it’s a regular-season rodeo,” said Dent, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Mullen, Neb. “You don’t have the opportunity to get on a horse that you can be that many points on and that’s that fun to get on very often in your life, much less the last week of the year when you’re trying to make the NFR.
“That is a really great horse. There are not very many of them like him that do it every time, that are that electric, jump that high in the air and that you can be that many points on.”
The horse has been selected to buck at the NFR each of the past seven seasons. Earlier this year, Jessy Davis scored 93 points during the Cinch Shootout at the San Angelo Stock Show Rodeo.
“He has a huge frame, but he’s so athletic from nose to tail. He just looks like an athlete. If you could pick a horse out of a herd that could jump nine feet in the air, he’s that horse,” Champion said. “If you’re going to win a big rodeo, that’s the horse you want.”
Dirty Jacket is powerful, athletic and consistent, but what makes him a proven winner year after year is in the effort he puts forward every trip. He has the heart of a champion.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Over the course of the last century, the American Royal has been one of the top giving organizations in the Midwest.
In 2014, the American Royal issued more than $1 million to its mission of supporting youth, education and agriculture.
Its charity is going to increase starting in 2015.
The examples are plenty, from increasing the scholarships for various programs to providing more opportunities for youth to learn more about agriculture’s place in today’s society. The purpose of the American Royal continues to hold tight those beliefs that helped establish Kansas City so many years ago.
For instance, the Royal will increase by $10,000 the amount of scholarship funds awarded to the University of Missouri and Kansas State University through the Veterinary Scholars Program. Through the end of 2014, the organization provided $7,500 to each vet school; that increases to $12,500 this year.
“Our education committee will also develop additional opportunities for the vet scholars to interact with other American Royal programs,” Mitchell said. “We believe the American Royal is a great teaching opportunity for vet scholars, and we want to develop other ways to improve those relationships and build our future leaders.”
The association also will increase the number of scholarships for the Royal Scholars Program from six to 10 while also increasing the scholarship by twice the amount to $5,000. The Royal also expects to increase the number of Calf Scramble invitees while continuing its commitment to funding the program.
“Every step we take is to provide greater opportunities and hopefully build on the agrarian values we deem so important,” Mitchell said.
The association also is partnering with the Agriculture Future of America organization, which, like the Royal, supports education, scholarship and leadership development for students interested in pursuing careers in agriculture. The American Royal will team with the AFA with a $10,000 scholarship.
“We believe in the Agriculture Future of America’s mission, and we want to show our support for another organization that has the same values with the American Royal,” Mitchell said. “This partnership will enable us to keep building for future agriculture leaders.”
The Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo is the perfect test for the top regional cowboys from all across the country.
The Texas-based stock contractor will feature 36 animals at the RNCFR, set for Wednesday-Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla. That is the largest contingent of animal athletes from all the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association stock contractors in Florida.
The list of Carr animals includes a big number that have bucked at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, including bulls Medicine Show, Footloose, Cajun Smurf, Line Man and Mind Games; saddle broncs Cool Runnings, Mike & Ike, Empty Pockets, Lone Star, Gold Coast, Spur Strap and Lori Darling; and bareback horses Ragin Angel, Witchy Woman, Ladies Man, Utopia, Yo Yo, Night Bells, Alberta Child, Big Lights and Real Deal, a former Bareback Horse of the Year.
With that kind of firepower, it’s bound to be an explosive race to the national championship.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Pete Carr is always on the lookout for the brightest talent in Pro Rodeo.
As owner of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, Carr knows the key to his business is to provide a great competition and incredible entertainment, all wrapped into a nice package that is rodeo. Whether it’s an athletic horse, a bucking and spinning bull or a great act, the purpose is to bring the best before the fans.
“All anyone wants is a chance to win, and the fans are there to be entertained” Carr said. “I get a lot of feedback from our contestants and fans about the stock and that they really enjoy the clowns and specialty acts that we are able to secure for our events across the country. We try to rotate the top people in the business to keep it fresh and at a level the fans have come to expect and enjoy. ”
Enter John Harrison of Soper, Okla. In 2013, he was selected to work the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as the barrelman. Last season, he was recognized as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Comedy Act of the Year and the Coors Man in the Can, an honor that rewards the top clown in the association each year.
In addition to hysterical acts that showcase Harrison’s talent and athleticism, the Oklahoma man serves as a valuable piece of the puzzle that helps make for a near-flawless performance each time he speaks.
“John is a true professional. He is good, clean family fun,” said John Gwatney, the production supervisor for Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, the livestock producer for the rodeo. “It’s his rodeo background, because he grew up in this sport. He has perfect timing and helps us with the ebb and flow of a rodeo performance. He has a tremendous amount of talent and versatility that translates into a vital piece of the puzzle for a successful event.”
That’s the key to reaching fans with a variety of entertaining items. Whether it’s a trick riding display that will leave fans in awe or his parody of rodeo queens, Harrison has a lot of ammunition in his bag.
“I do this for the love of the sport,” he said “Growing up with it, you enjoy it. Now I can actually make a living at it, so that helps.”
While family is a big part of who Harrison is, he realizes that rodeo serves as a foster family of sorts.
“The friends and the ‘family’ you meet on the road is a big deal for us,” he said. “Plus if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.”