GUYMON, Okla. – Over the next 10 days, this community of more than 12,000 in the heart of the Oklahoma Panhandle will become a cowboy town.
It’s more than the title of a Brooks & Dunn song, more than a few extra cowboy hats roaming the streets. It’s rodeo time in Texas County, from this weekend’s Doc Gardner Memorial to next week’s Guymon Pioneer Days.
Between the two, more than 1,000 cowboys and cowgirls will test their skills inside Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena. The highlight will be Pioneer Days Rodeo, which features four performances set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8.
“This committee has been working very hard for several months to prepare and plan for our rodeo,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the volunteer group that organizes the annual rodeo. “We have over 800 contestants who have entered our ProRodeo, and that means a lot of things for this community.”
Yes, it does. Competition begins Monday with the first two rounds of steer roping, followed by the final two rounds Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday will feature two rounds of tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping, while Friday’s morning session will be one full round of barrel racing. The second round will begin directly after and carry over into the weekend performances. That marks seven straight days of ProRodeo and a boon to fuel stops, restaurants and other businesses in town.
“We only have a few more days for people to get their advanced tickets, so we want to make sure they know they get a discount for buying their tickets early,” Quimby said, noting that advance tickets are $15, while it costs $20 at the gate for ages 12 and older; tickets for children ages 6-11 are $10, and kids 5 and younger get in for either $5 or two cans of food, which will be donated to Loaves and Fishes Food Cupboard, a local food pantry.
It all adds up to a bargain for the type of entertainment. From the comedy of rodeo entertainer Cody Sosebee to the world championship bucking stock from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, Lancaster & Jones Pro Rodeo, D&H Cattle Co., Powder River Rodeo Co. and Korkow Rodeos. Combined those firms will have some of the greatest bucking animals in the sport all in Guymon.
That includes the reigning two-time Bareback Horse of the Year, Carr’s Dirty Jacket, which bucked at a ProRodeo for the first time inside Hitch Arena eight seasons ago. Those great animals will be mixed with terrific timed-event horses and a host of the top contestants in the game.
This year’s field will feature 119 cowboys and cowgirls that have National Finals qualifications, including 18 world champions making up 46 gold buckles. Many of those have ties to Texas County, from Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo alumni: three-time steer roping world champion Rocky Patterson, two-time saddle bronc riding titlist Taos Muncy and 2014 bronc riding winner Spencer Wright.
“We’re awfully proud to draw the very best in rodeo to Guymon every year,” Quimby said. “That says a lot for Guymon to have that kind of hospitality that these great contestants want to come back every year to our rodeo.”
CLAREMORE, Okla. – A championship celebration is coming to this Rogers County community for Memorial Day weekend.
In conglomeration with the Will Rogers Stampede, the city of Claremore will recognize the rodeo, its history and its award-winning legacy leading up to the three nights of world-class performances at Will Rogers Stampede Arena.
It all begins with the Downtown Hoedown, which will take place Thursday, May 26. A portion of Will Rogers Boulevard will be closed for the gathering.
“This is going to be a great way to kick off our rodeo,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “We’re celebrating our 70th consecutive year of having the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, and this is a great way to honor that.”
The key ingredient will be the three performances – set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27-Sunday, May 29 – of the Will Rogers Stampede, which has been named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Small Rodeo of the Year each of the past two seasons.
“The Rodeo of the Year award says so much about the hard work that the volunteers put in year in and year out to make that rodeo successful,” said Scott Grover, the longtime announcer of Claremore’s rodeo. “Every year those people bust their humps to put on a better rodeo than what they had done before, and it shows.
“Last year was just a sloppy mess in the arena, but the crowd didn’t know any different. We still had a lot of people at that rodeo that saw a great performance night after night. It’s also a great sign of the type of production Pete Carr Pro Rodeo puts on. Even with the mud and the rain, those Carr animals were amazing.”
Included in this year’s festivities are concerts each night after the rodeo, with a stage set up on the east side of the rodeo arena. Friday’s show will feature Adam Hood, while Saturday will be the playground of Cooder Graw. Cody Canada and The Departed will close out the weekend on Sunday night.
Tickets are on sale through the event’s website, www.WillRogersStampede.com, and include family packs and adult passes offered at a significant discount online.
“I think one of the exciting things for us is the return to a rodeo parade,” Petty said, noting the parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and take place from the Will Rogers Memorial down Will Rogers Boulevard and end up at the historic Belvidere Mansion.
“For years, the people of Claremore associated the rodeo with a parade. By bringing it all together, it’s exciting to us to see that the city has embraced the rodeo just like it did decades ago.”
That’s just the way it was meant to be.
After a dozen years as owner and operator of Auto Express, Brady Harbin is moving across the street.
On June 1, the 39-year-old Leoti man will begin work as an agricultural/commercial loan officer at Western State Bank, just west of his dealership across Second Street.
“The opportunity to serve this community in a greater capacity came up, and I couldn’t pass it up,” said Harbin, a 1995 graduate of Wichita County High School. “This is where I grew up, and this is where I want my kids to continue to grow up.
“To me, this is the perfect marriage. I am able to join a family business I respect, where they share the same customer values as me.”
Family has always been a big part of his life, but so has community. He is a volunteer firefighter and is one of the many people in Leoti that donate their time to the annual Wichita County Fair Association. He also is a member of the Wichita County Economic Development E-Community leadership team and a member of the Leoti United Methodist Church.
In fact, it was that sense of giving that guided Harbin back to town more than a decade ago. He began working in the auto industry as service adviser for Western Motors in Garden City. After two years, he was promoted to the finance office. When an opportunity came for Harbin to work in the sales department at the dealership, he considered all his options.
“I decided that if I ever decided to sell cars, I wanted to do it on my own,” he said. “I was looking for a way to get back to Leoti and raise my family.
“I sold my first car ever in August 2004 when I opened Auto Express.”
It’s worked well for Harbin and his family. Renee Harbin is a business instructor at Garden City Community College, and their daughter, Bailey, is a freshman at Kansas State University; Madison is a seventh-grader; and Colton is in the fourth grade.
“This is an amazing place for kids to grow up,” Brady Harbin said. “I’m proud to be from here. What we lack in opportunity, we make up in character.”
That’s one of the reasons he felt so strongly about building his Auto Express brand in his hometown.
“At the time, the old Fitzgerald building was available,” he said. “I decided to start really small and grow a business.”
The dealership has done that well. As the only auto dealership in Wichita County, Auto Express has become a major contributor to the area. Although he’s walking across the street toward his new career, he’d like to see someone take over the dealership and continue to service the community.
“I’d love to help the right person,” Harbin said. “They need to come in here and put their fingerprints on this and make it their own.”
For now, though, he’s excited about the next phase life has to offer.
“This community has been a big part of who I am,” he said. “I’m excited to serve the people of Leoti, of Wichita County and of western Kansas in a different way.”
BRIDGEPORT, Texas – A solid partnership always makes things better.
That’s the case with the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo and its livestock producer, Dallas-based Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.
“Pete has been amazing to work with,” said David Turnbow, president of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 14, at Sunset Retreat and Weddings Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena. “He’s been helpful to us in many ways, and it’s been that way since the first day we began working together.”
The livestock firm is one of the premier stock contractors in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, having received four nominations for Stock Contractor of the Year. No other PRCA producer has had more animals selected to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo over the last three years than Carr.
Over the last six years, three Carr animals have been named PRCA Bareback Animals of the Year, including the last two years with Dirty Jacket, a 12-year-old bay gelding. He was joined by Big Tex in 2010 and MGM Deuces Night. The talented herd of bucking horses also includes Real Deal, the 2005 winner.
It’s that type of athletic talent that will help draw the biggest names in the sport to Bridgeport in May. Take last year’s top finishers in bareback riding as an example: Richmond Champion won the Butterfield Stage Days title, followed by three-time world champion Will Lowe and Evan Jayne. All have competed at the NFR.
They also have had great success on Carr animals.
“Pete sure enough has a bunch of great horses,” Lowe said. “You dang sure know you’d better be ready when you get on one of Pete’s horses.”
The bull riders feel the same way. Carr has developed one of the top bull herds in ProRodeo.
“Pete Carr’s got a great set of bucking stock,” said Sage Kimzey, the reigning two-time world champion bull rider from Strong City, Okla. “It’s awesome what he’s done.”
It all comes down to putting together a great contest for the cowboys and a powerful production for the fans. That’s just what the Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo committee and its fans have come to expect.
“The production of a Pete Carr rodeo is second to none,” Turnbow said. “When you put his production in with great livestock that comes to Bridgeport every spring, we know we can expect the best.”
It’s an overall great experience for everyone involved.
“Pete Carr puts on a great rodeo,” Kimzey said. “I’m thankful he loves the sport of rodeo so much and wants it to be so great.”
BRIDGEPORT, Texas – Many across Wise County take considerable pride in their homes and their way of life.
They have a little more to be proud of with the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo, which was nominated for Small Rodeo of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 2015.
“We were so hoping that we would’ve gotten that top spot and won the award, but we’re very tickled to be nominated,” said David Turnbow, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “Being in the top five rodeos in our category is an honor. Out of the more than 600 rodeos across the country, only 20 were nominated for rodeo of the year.
“That’s a very big deal to us and to our community.”
This year’s rodeo is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 14, at Sunset Retreat and Weddings Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
“It’s pretty darn special to be part of that few of rodeos,” Turnbow said. “Our goal is to win it this year.”
It’s a lofty aspiration, but it’s achievable, and everyone on the committee knows it. It helps, of course, that the group has enlisted the help of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, one of the elite livestock and production companies in the PRCA with four straight nominations for Stock Contractor of the Year.
“Over the years we’ve been associated with Bridgeport, we’ve seen the hard work that everyone has put in to making that rodeo better,” said Pete Carr, owner of the Dallas-based team. “They are all great to work with, and I believe they are worthy of being the Rodeo of the Year.”
From the many man-hours leading up to the week of the rodeo to the intense labor put in during the week of the event, it takes a small army of dedicated people to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. When something comes up, they work together for the betterment of the organization. The proof is in the plaque that shows the Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo among the very best in ProRodeo.
“Being Rodeo of the Year is hard to win,” Turnbow said. “They don’t just pass the hat around, saying that it’s our turn. If you win that thing, you’ve done something.”
The volunteers are doing it, from great hospitality to hosting the greatest stars in the game every May. World champions and regular Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers make sure to stop by Bridgeport every spring.
“We’re always trying hard to do other stuff, and we have a lot of different ideas about where we’re going to go,” Turnbow said. “We’re always trying to do better.”
GUYMON, Okla. – The first time Dirty Jacket ever bucked at a ProRodeo, he did so inside Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
That was eight years ago, and Coloradoan Jared Schlagel won the bareback riding title on the colt that year. The Pete Carr Pro Rodeo bucking horse was just 4 years old, a dangly, lean spectacle that bucked, twisted and kicked for his half of the 87-point score. That’s like a pre-teen football player excelling at the NFL.
That was just the start of some phenomenal experiences for the talented bay, which led cowboys to the winners circle in Guymon for four straight years through 2011. He’s been named one of the top bareback horses in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association every year since, including the 2014 and ’15 Bareback Horse of the Year titles.
He is just one of the many great bucking beasts that will be part of the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Hitch Arena.
“He’s just a great animal,” said Ryan Gray, an eight-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier whose 92 on Dirty Jacket last June in Pecos, Texas, was the highest-marked bareback ride all season. “You can guarantee he’s going to perform at his best every time. He’s going to give you a chance to win first; that’s the neat thing about that horse.”
Already this season, he has guided 2015 NFR qualifier Jake Brown of Hillsboro, Texas, to the third-round win at the RAM Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo in January with an 87-point ride. He then followed that a month later by helping three-time NFR qualifier Caleb Bennett of Tremonton, Utah, to 90.5 points to win the championship round in San Angelo, Texas.
“There’s not another horse like him,” said Richmond Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, who has won three times on the powerful bay. “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. If you’re going to win a big rodeo, that’s the horse you want.”
Champion first rode the talented horse in 2014 at Cheyenne, Wyo., where his 91-point score in the final round catapulted the young cowboy to the championship and his eventual qualification to that season’s NFR. In Las Vegas that December, Champion scored 88 points on Dirty Jacket to win the fifth go-round; five nights later, Bennett was 86.5 points on him to win the 10th round. He followed that with a 90-point ride in Eagle, Colo., last July.
“It’s really neat to our committee that such a great bucking horse got his start at our rodeo,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces Pioneer Days Rodeo. “Dirty Jacket is a phenomenal athlete, and we have some outrageous stories to tell about him.”
One of those came in his second year in Guymon in 2009, when Dirty Jacket cleared the fence on the south end of the arena and made his way toward the parking lot.
“He wasn’t very old then, but he certainly was athletic,” Quimby said. “We were all amazed at that, and the fact that everyone – including Dirty Jacket – came out of that situation unscathed.”
His athleticism has continued to blossom over the years. When cowboys think about electric bucking horses, Dirty Jacket is the first one mentioned. He’s considerably different from that young bucking horse that made its debut in 2008.
But he’s still a winner.
“In my mind, Dirty Jacket is the right kind of bucking horse,” said Brown, who earned his round win on the horse in Waco, Texas. “He tries so hard every time.”
“That first jump out of there felt so awesome. He jumps so high. We’ve talked that he likes outdoor arenas better because he probably thinks he’s going to hit his head on an indoor arena because he wants to buck so high. He bucked pretty good at that building in Waco.”
As he’s proven quite often over the years, he likes Hitch Arena quite well, too. Every cowboy in the game hopes they have a chance to ride him there.
ALVA, Okla. – Championship-caliber teams know overcoming adversity is a big part of winning titles.
The Northwestern Oklahoma State University women’s team moved one step closer to claiming the Central Plains Region championship this past weekend by overcoming poor conditions forced through heavy rains that splattered Doug Phillips Arena at Fort Hays (Kan.) State University.
“Southwestern was really close to us for the girls team, so it was really good to pick up some points and extend the lead on them,” said Tearnee Nelson, who was the guiding force behind the Rangers women’s team title in Hays. “It’s really nice to stay in that No. 1 spot.”
What makes the Northwestern women such a standout team in a tough region?
“I’d say it’s our competitiveness,” said Nelson of Faith, S.D. “Everybody wants to win, and we have a lot of talent on the team. Stockton could put eight combinations together to make up the (four-person) team, and I think we’d all be huge contributors to it.”
The water poured over the western Kansas community of 21,000 Saturday, making for a wet and muddy mess for the final two performances of the rodeo – including Sunday’s championship go-round.
“When I was up in everything on Saturday morning, it wasn’t near as bad as it was Saturday night and Sunday,” she said. “The ground was still slick, but the horses held up.”
Then came the heavy stuff. By the time the final round was to begin, the arena dirt was more like a mud pit.
“I was told to go play in the mud,” said Nelson, who sloshed through her goat-tying run in 12.1 seconds to finish second in the short-round and second in the two-run aggregate; she also teamed with younger brother Wylee to gather a time and secure points in both the championship round and average in team roping.
“It was fun. I didn’t want to hurt my horses in the mud, but they held up. I just went out and made my run the best I could. It was either going to be good or good watching.”
While her 12.1-second run in goat-tying was slower than she would’ve liked, it ended up being solid. She and Wylee then posted a 23.6-second team-roping run – they were just one of three teams to score a time in the short round.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to do anything (in goat-tying) in the short round,” she said. “I was kind of upset, but I had to get on my horse for team roping.”
The brother-sister team worked through the adverse conditions and made it work. They finished second in the final round and third in the aggregate. In all, Tearnee Nelson accumulated 190 of the Northwestern women’s 350 points.
“We maxed out in penalties – I broke the barrier, and Wylee caught a leg,” she said, pointing to the 10-second barrier penalty and the 5-second penalty for not capturing two legs on the heel loop. “With the conditions, it was pretty tricky.
“We were pretty lucky that Wylee got a leg at all.”
Those conditions made it tough on everybody. For instance, Shayna Miller of Faith won the first round of goat-tying with a 7.5-second run. Her 18.7-second-round run held up for sixth place in both the final round and average. Elli Price of Faith, who posted an 8.0-seconod run in the rain on Saturday night, earned 25 points for finishing in a tie for fourth place in the long round but was unable to handle the muck and mud Sunday afternoon.
Barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., was third in the long round, then was nearly 2 seconds slower in the final round to finish fifth. Breakway roper Katy Miller of Faith finished second in the long round but was unable to score a the short round, finishing sixth overall.
In team roping, the Northwestern tandem of Mike McGinn of Haines, Okla., and Scott Day of Vernon, British Columbia, won the title after posting a 14.3-second run in the championship round. Their two-run cumulative time of 25.8 seconds was more than 4 seconds faster than the runners-up and almost 8 seconds faster than the Nelsons.
All-around cowboy Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, earned points in both team roping and tie-down roping, winning the long round in the latter and finishing fifth while trying to manage the mud Sunday.
In steer wrestling, a host of Rangers qualified for the championship round, led by J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., who shared the long-round victory with two other cowboys after they all posted 5.0-second runs. Ty Batie of Rapid City, S.D., was third in the first round, while Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, placed in a tie for fifth place in the opener.
In the final round, Allred’s 13.5-second run was good enough for sixth overall, while Riley Westhaver of High River, Alberta, was 11.4 to finish fourth in the round and fifth overall. Bareback rider Austin Graham of Jay, Okla., finished fifth overall, capturing 50 points for the men’s team in the process.
Now the goal is to finish the season strong the final weekend of April at the Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo in Guymon, Okla. The Rangers will lean on the lessons they’ve learned through the season from coach Stockton Graves and his staff.
“He always pushes us,” Tearnee Nelson said of Graves. “He’s recruited a lot of good girls, and now we’ve got a shot at the team title. If everybody goes out and makes their runs, it should be no problem.”
That’s the plan, anyway.
ALVA, Okla. – Momentum is a major factor in any team’s success.
The Northwestern Oklahoma State University women’s rodeo team proved that with a dominating performance this past weekend at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Weatherford. In doing so, the Rangers leaped over Southwestern and into the No. 1 spot in the Central Plains Region standings.
“We’re pretty stacked,” goat-tying winner Laremi Allred said of number of talented members on the Rangers team. “We’re especially stacked in goat-tying. When we’re on, we’re on, and you can count on us all coming back to the short-go. When we’re coming back with three or four of us cheering each other on, that’s really nice.”
That happened in Weatherford. Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., won the opening round and was the top Northwestern cowgirl among four that competed in the finale, joined by Allred of Kanarraville, Utah; and Katy Miller and Tearnee Nelson, both of Faith.
While Shayna Miller won the long round with a 7.1-second run, Katy Miller and Allred were 7.5 to finish in a three-way-tie for third place. Allred then sped to a 7.3-second finish to win the short round, followed by Katy Miller’s 7.6 to finish second. Allred’s cumulative time of 14.8 seconds on two runs earned her the title and the bulk of the points, while Katy Miller was second overall. Shayna Miller was fourth, and Nelson finished in a tie for fifth place.
“My horse worked really well,” Allred said. “In the long go, I had a little pause when I got to my goat, but it was a good run. I knew I needed to fix that little pause. In the short-go, my horse worked outstanding.”
That horse is Flax, a 22-year-old sorrel gelding with flaxen main and tail. He’s been used in team roping and steer wrestling, and Allred uses him as her breakaway-roping and goat-tying horse.
“I got him as a graduation present from my grandpa, who passed away from cancer that year,” she said. “I really love him, and he fits me perfect. He’s really special because he is from my grandpa.
“My uncle owned him before me. We raised him, and my uncle bulldogged on him and won the ProRodeo in Pendleton (Ore.) on him.”
A horse of that magnitude is beneficial in rodeo, and the Northwestern men and women have stalls full of great ones. Take Shayna Miller, who capitalized on her solid performance in goat-tying while also doing well in breakaway. She finished second overall in that event and won the all-around title in Weatherford.
Teammate Sami McGuire of Backus, Minn., won the breakaway roping title with a two-run cumulative time of 6.4 seconds. Shayna Miller’s 6.9 earned the runner-up spot. Teammate Ashton Johnson of Benton, Iowa, finished in a tie for sixth overall. Barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., finished fifth in her discipline.
The men, who finished third at the Southwestern rodeo, were led by steer wrestler Jacob Edler of State Center, Iowa, who placed in both rounds; his 5.7-second opening-round run finished third, and his 5.5 earned him the short-round title and the average championship. Teammate Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, was 5.5 to share first place in the long round, then held on for sixth place overall. They were joined in the final round by Tyrell Kline of Hennessey, Okla., who finished in a two-way tie for third in the opening round.
Tie-down roper Chase Lako of Hunter, N.D., utilized a fast 8.7-second run on the final day to win both the short round and the average with a two-run cumulative time of 18.6 seconds. Bryson Seachrist of Apache, Okla., placed third in the long round, short round and average. Bareback rider Austin Graham of Jay, Okla., won the first round but failed to mark a score in the finale.
While Northwestern leads the women’s standings, the Rangers men sit third and will need to put together solid performances during the final two weekends of the season if they hope to earn a team spot in the College National Finals Rodeo. The teams will compete in Hays, Kan., this coming weekend, then will close out the season the final weekend of April in Guymon, Okla.
Individually, contestants must finish among the top three in their respective events if they hope to compete at Casper, Wyo., in June.
“The goals I made were making seven out of 10 short-goes this year, and I’ve made six so far,” Allred said. “My other goal is to finish in the top three in goat-tying, and I’m fourth right now and within reach of getting into the top three.
“Now that we’ve moved up in the team standings, I think it would be really cool if we could win the team deal. If we have a weekend like we just did, we’ll be fine. I think we should go ahead and win this thing since it’s this close. I don’t think that would be unreasonable.”
GUYMON, Okla. – Oklahoma has a strong and powerful rodeo history.
From hosting the National Finals Rodeo to being the home of many world champions, the state is well known for its rodeo lore. Still, only this community in the heart of the Panhandle can boast of being home to Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame Rodeo.
Fresh off its induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame last summer, the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo will show the world just why during four performances, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“We have an 84-year history that we’re very proud of,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “Every year we work very hard as a community to pull off the best rodeo in the state, in the country.
“Being inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame is an incredible honor for us. We are very proud of our rodeo. We have a core group of people who work all year to put this on, but this is a community event. We wouldn’t have the kind of rodeo we have without our community.”
It’s a rodeo that’s well-respected by the contestants that play the game. Nearly 1,000 cowboys and cowgirls make their way to the Oklahoma Panhandle every spring for the event. Virtually every world champion in recent history has played the game inside Hitch Arena, and they always look forward to returning.
“The community really got behind this rodeo,” said Robert Etbauer, a two-time world champion from Goodwell, Okla., now serving as the rodeo coach at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “The community’s the one that got the rodeo (to the hall of fame). Larry Jeffus and the rest of that committee … my hat’s off to them, because they did a heck of a job.”
There have been a number of volunteers over the years that have held significant roles in the rodeo’s success. From Melyn Johnson to Ken Stonecipher to Earl Helm to Quimby and the countless others who have been part of the event’s success, it takes a small village for Pioneer Days Rodeo to continue to be a top-tier event for the contestants.
Etbauer and other cowboys had a big hand in helping put the Guymon rodeo on the map in the early 1990s. He and others with ties to Texas County worked hard to help increase the purse, thereby making it a big event in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Prior to the early ’90s, Pioneer Days Rodeo had the smallest committee bankroll to make it eligible to be a PRCA event – local organizers raised $500 per event, which was then combined with contestants’ entry fees to make up the entire purse. Over the last two-plus decades, the local event boasts of one of the larger overall purses in the association.
“It’s a rodeo that came from humble beginnings, just a $500 circuit rodeo,” said Bret Franks, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier who grew up in Guymon. “It hasn’t always been a big celebration for the community.
“The big deal was getting sponsors behind it. I remember Robert going around and knocking on doors, introducing himself. We all kind of did it in little ways, but Robert was the driving force for us contestants, a lot of us Panhandle State alumni.”
It didn’t hurt that Etbauer was wearing one of his two world championship gold buckles while visiting with sponsors, but that was just the start.
“It was our hometown rodeo, and we wanted to see the best for it,” said Etbauer, who, along with brother Billy, was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2012 – they were joined a year later by youngest brother Dan as inductees into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in Oklahoma City. “We loved this community and liked our hometown rodeo. We wanted to do whatever we could.”
There were a lot of big names who jumped on board. The Etbauers were joined by traveling partner Craig Latham, Franks and just about anyone who had ties to the Panhandle State rodeo team. Most were big names on the ProRodeo trail at the time.
“We appreciate all those that voted,” Robert Etbauer said. “Those that voted are the committees and your peers, the people you rode in front of and got to know them through the years. It’s just fun to be thought of in that way.”
Now Pioneer Days Rodeo is part of the grandest hall in the sport.
“The town has grown so much in the last 10 years that it’s unbelievable,” Franks said. “There have been a lot of people that have gotten behind that rodeo and improved it. They have always tried to do whatever would set us apart and improve it, whether it was bringing in all the different contractors to roping muleys (hornless steers used in team roping).
“They were doing things that were innovative and outside the box when we started. Now all the good rodeos are doing what we were doing then.”
Maybe that’s just another big reason why Pioneer Days Rodeo will forever be enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame along with all the other greats in the game.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in April edition of Women’s ProRodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is reprinted here with the WPRA’s approval.
Jordan Fabrizio has seen up close the good that has come from the Three Star Memorial Roping in Amarillo, Texas.
That’s why she’s involved and why she’ll continue to be involved in the event that honors lives lost 20 years ago and benefits rodeo’s future stars.
“This is for a scholarship-based non-profit fund,” said Fabrizio, who produces the memorial. “Some of the money raised will go to the West Texas A&M rodeo team, individual scholarships and group scholarships. We also give 10 boys and 10 girls ages 9-11 them individual $250 scholarships that goes into an account and accrues interest until they’re 18. They can then cash it out for the college of their choice.”
This year’s event featured a breakaway roping that was co-sanctioned by the WPRA. There was $10,000 in added money in the pot and 165 cowgirls involved. That made it a valuable event for all involved.
“We were able to raise $30,000 this year,” said Fabrizio, who actually utilized her $2,500 scholarship to attend West Texas A&M at the Three Star Memorial in 2009. “Last year we raised $20,000. It’s definitely been a huge blessing and has just grown incredibly.
“I’m pretty sure that this is the biggest breakaway roping in the world. It was a huge event and went for 17 straight hours.”
It also was highly profitable for many ropers. Angela Bartley, who won the average with a four-run cumulative time of 12.06 seconds, earned $13,343. WPRA member Hope Thompson finished as the reserve champion, earning $6,636 in the process.
“I’m excited about how our sport of breakaway roping is growing,” said Thompson, the No. 1 cowgirl in the standings. “As a breakaway roper, that’s every girl’s dream. I couldn’t wait to compete at it. It’s not just the competition, but the fact that we had something like that to go to.
“I know Jordan had that roping last year, and I couldn’t go, so I was really pumped to be part of it this year. Jordan did a great job putting it on.”
The purse was a major attraction for the competitors.
“It was so exciting to have somebody put something on like that and have that much money up,” Thompson said. “It’s great to see the sponsors that believed in our sport enough to pitch in and add that much in breakaway roping. I think we were all excited.”
That’s the purpose of the memorial, which just celebrated its 20th year. Over the course of its tenure, it has been a team roping, a timed-event competition and a tie-down and breakaway roping. It is a way to remember the lives of three men who died in a car wreck in 1996: C.M. Kuhlman, Todd Fincher and Jody Hart.
“The Kuhlman family has been a stone in my life,” Fabrizio said. “They’ve helped me grow and accomplish my goals and my dreams. I wanted to make sure that the three boys that died in the accident had their story told, their legacy continued.
“Their lives, even though they were lost 20 years ago, have contributed to many others. I wanted to help their legacy continue on and on.”
A longtime roper, Fabrizio knows how important it is to have big events. That’s another key reason she wanted it to be co-sanctioned by the WPRA.
“Our goal was to have one of the largest breakaway ropings ever,” she said. “I wanted to target all the women in rodeo, and I wanted to give them an opportunity to compete at one of the biggest ropings ever.
“Roping is growing in the women’s world, and that’s great. I like that this is a great way to give the girls a boost in the WPRA and help them move up in the standings.”
In all, several WPRA members earned money to help them in the standings. It also served as a way for young rodeo stars to gain some critical experience. Fabrizio said the members of the West Texas A&M rodeo team were instrumental in the event’s success.
“We have an awesome support system here and an awesome team,” she said. “Our committee works hard, and the whole community is involved. We could not have made it happen without the West Texas rodeo team. They worked hard. They were the behind-the-scenes crew that made it all happen.
“When you see kids like that working that hard, it definitely makes you think you’re doing something right after all. It’s good to see they believe in it as much as we do.”
As the Three Star Memorial continues, there are plenty of believers in the annual event.
“To start out the year with a win like that always helps,” Thompson said. “We won’t have an opportunity to rope for that much money in a breakaway roping for the rest of the year.”
She’s not taking her No. 1 spot in the standings lightly. In fact, she plans to push hard through the rest of the year to earn her second WPRA world title, and she’s doing so on Ink, a 7-year-old black mare.
“She’s a little horse I bought when she was 3,” Thompson said. “I trained her. We rope calves on her, heel on her and head on her. She’s one of those great horses, and she’s good to look at. She’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime horses, and she likes her job.”
So do a lot of talented women who were part of the breakaway roping at the Three Star Memorial. If their bank accounts aren’t proof enough, then their smiles should be.