Archive for February, 2011

postheadericon Hodge Ford, Fennell team together to reach rodeo gold

D.V. Fennell

D.V. Fennell

There are three things that are a must for rodeo cowboys who hit the road chasing their gold buckle dreams: grit, determination and the means to get from one rodeo to another.

Bareback rider D.V. Fennell might have just added the final touch to the coveted, yet elusive, world championship in his partnership with James Hodge Ford of Muskogee, Okla. The sponsorship agreement provides the two-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo the resources he needs to make a third straight trip to ProRodeo’s grand finale.

“I’m pretty dang proud to be part of HodgeFord.com,” said Fennell, 37, of Neosho, Mo. “Jack Hodge has been awesome to work with, and he’s taken great care of me. It’s just an honor to work with somebody that goes out of their way for you, the way Jack’s done for me. I really appreciate that guy.”

This isn’t the first foray into ProRodeo for Jack Hodge, owner of the Muskogee dealership. In fact, he’s had an established partnership with Fennell’s traveling partner, 2008 bareback riding world champion Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla. Over the past year, he’s seen how the partnership with an elite cowboy can help get word out about the dealership.

“D.V. and Justin are two of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet, and it just so happens they’re two of the best bareback riders in rodeo,” Hodge said. “They’re the kind of people I like working with, and it’s something we’ve built our brand around since my dad opened his first dealership in Idabel (Okla.) 41 years ago.

“I’ve gotten to know D.V., and I’m excited to have him and Justin carrying the HodgeFord.com brand to every rodeo they go to, including the National Finals Rodeo. That’s great exposure.”

Hodge was born in Idabel, which is in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma. That’s a familiar neck of the woods for Fennell, who was born in Utah and raised just 20 miles from Idabel.

“You’re not going to find too many people that are better than Jack and Eric Norris,” Fennell said, referring to the State Farm Insurance agent in Neosho. “Eric’s been with me a long time and has been a true friend. Even though this sponsorship with Hodge Ford is new, I know Jack and know what he’s about.

“I want to give back to them more than they’ve given to me, and the best way I can do that is go out and win that gold buckle.”

postheadericon Sister act among the group of Guymon rodeo’s volunteers

GUYMON, Okla. – Each May the largest community in the Oklahoma Panhandle hosts nearly 1,000 of the best athletes ProRodeo has to offer, from world champion cowboys and cowgirls to the outstanding bucking beasts.

The key ingredient in the magnitude and scope of such an event is the group of community volunteers that tackle every task, from raising funds to cleaning the facilities and handling all matters in between. It takes thousands of man hours to get everything ready, much less the work it takes during the seven straight days of rodeo competition in Texas County, Okla.

To be that involved means a real commitment, following a calling. That’s the case for so many people who not only invest their time and talents throughout the year, but also use their vacation time to work their tails off the week of the rodeo.

“I do this because I love rodeo,” said Becky Robinson of Guymon, who tackles the scheduling, appearances and contests involving the rodeo queens. “I love all the people involved in it. Rodeo people are just good people.”

That’s Robinson’s driving force, but it’s also a passion for her to help produce the biggest event in the community, with 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.

“I think the reason we have a great rodeo is because we cater to the contestants,” said Robinson, who has been part of the rodeo committee for 10 years and is involved with her sister, Gina Horner. “We have good stock, and we always try to get the top stock. I think the reason so many cowboys come to Guymon is because of the stock and the format.

“But I think, too, they come here because of the hospitality. That’s important.”

The Pioneer Days Rodeo committee does what it can to reach out to contestants, but the hospitality reaches into the community.

“I think the opportunity to compete for money is going to be in the contestants’ thoughts as much as anything, but I believe the hospitality we provide is a big part of it, too,” said Horner, who joined the committee with Robinson in 2002. “I don’t believe it’s just the rodeo committee or just the rodeo, but everyone else, too. I think they need to put fuel in their trucks and buy food for their horses and themselves, and they get to interact with the people here.

“This feels like home to them. We’re rodeo people here. Our kids rodeo, just like their kids.”

The rodeo is just one piece of the large Pioneer Days celebration, which has roots to the Depression, when Guymon was in the middle of the “Dust Bowl.” But the rodeo is the cornerstone of the festivities that take place the first weekend of May each year. That means the volunteers put together their time and talents to help produce the event.

Last year alone, a record number of contestants and a record crowd saw the action inside. How does that happen?

“We have a lot of people who put in a lot of their time and energy all year long to put together the best rodeo we can,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the rodeo committee. “Most of the volunteers take off the week of the rodeo so they can help out and be part of it. It’s a lot of work, but I think every person that is involved believes in this rodeo that much. We’re awfully proud of it and the work we do.”

They should be. Over the years, Pioneer Days Rodeo has grown from a small event to one that attracts most of the top contestants in the sport. It has happened because people took their pride in the rodeo and built on it, sharing their passion with others.

“I’m on the rodeo committee for personal reasons, to spend quality time with my sister,” Horner said. “I love doing my part with the rodeo because of our childhood, of sitting in those wooden bleachers with my cousins and Becky. The rodeo is so important to my mom, and they’ve all pulled me into that with them.

“It’s a family thing for us, but the bonus is you get to help your community.”

And the community is the beneficiary. Recent figures reveal the rodeo offers a $2 million economic impact to Texas County. That means a lot to Robinson and Horner, who grew up in No Man’s Land and have been around the annual rodeo most of their lives.

“I help wherever else we need help at,” said Robinson, whose duties keep her so busy during the week of the rodeo that she hasn’t seen an entire performance in 10 years. “Guymon is such a good rodeo, and it seems like it always has been.”

Horner is proud to be part of the committee, but she’s more proud to see her sister excel. Like a lot of the volunteers who bust their humps to make things happen, Robinson has been a guiding light for the last decade.

“I think Becky is the real story, because she really puts so much into the rodeo,” Horner said. “This is a woman who has taken vacation for the rodeo when she won’t take a vacation for herself. This is important to her. That’s why I’m here.”

postheadericon McCoys go from last to third in one leg of ‘Amazing Race’

Halfway through Sunday’s second episode of the CBS-TV reality series “The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business,” Jet McCoy made quite an understated comment.

Jet and Cord McCoy

Jet and Cord McCoy (PHOTO BY Monty Brinton/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

“Cord, this is a milestone,” said McCoy, who is racing around the world for $1 million with his brother. “We’re not in last place. Woohoo.”

Many fans, especially those who have fallen for the cowboys on the series, had been biting their nails. The Season 18 episodes feature some of the most popular tandems to have ever been part of the race, and that includes the rodeo champion brothers from southeastern Oklahoma.

But the McCoys had fans holding their collective breaths through the opening episode, which continued into Sunday night’s race across Australia. The brothers finally finished the first leg of the race, although the other 10 teams were shown doing so the week before.

“Jet and Cord, I’m sorry to tell you you’re the last to arrive,” host Phil Keoghan told the brothers when they arrived at the first “pit stop” of this season.

“We know,” Cord said.

“I want you to go redeem yourselves,” Keoghan said. “The race is still going, man. Here’s your next clue.”

The brothers took off on their next venture. Looking exhausted, they walked the streets of Sydney searching out their final clue. With darkness upon them, they finally met the challenge, though hours behind the other teams. But in doing so, they got on the second of two charter flights to the Australian outback, so they were already within 30 minutes of the race leaders.

That was a “long day today, but in this one instance, we are very glad there’s other teams on this flight,” Cord said.

“We’re just glad to still be in the race,” Jet responded.

The flights landed in Broken Hill, an isolated mining town in the far west of the outback New South Wales. The teams went to the Living Desert, where they took part in their first detour, choosing between two aboriginal customs dealing with the spirit world and the natural world. All the teams chose the spirit world, where they had to build a mosaic and dance to raise the spirits. The engaged couple, Amanda Blackledge and Kris Klicka, had to do both challenges as part of the “U-turn,” a punishment for coming in last in the opening challenge of the season.

“Everybody else was doing it,” Jet said. “We might as well, too.”

The brothers left the Living Desert in seventh place, having moved up four spots in the first 30 minutes of the hour-long show. They made their way to the Central Football Club, where each contestant donned a kangaroo outfit and had to find the answer to the puzzle involving the periodic table.

“What is Hg and Bi?” Jet asked his brother.

“I don’t know, Jet,” Cord said. “You watch way more Discovery Channel than I do.”

Their clue took them to the intersection of Mercury and Bismuth streets in Broken Hill, where they found their final clue of the leg and were directed to the second episode’s “pit stop.” While still decked out in their kangaroo outfits, the teams piled back in their vehicles and went to an abandoned mine.

Best friends Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew won the leg.

But there was a pretty good race to finish out the competition. While some teams struggled to take off their anti-gravity jumping boots, the McCoys took off.

“We passed like three teams,” Jet said as the brothers zoomed around parked vehicles.

Once at the mine, the McCoys sprinted past sisters LaKisha and Jennifer Hoffman and finished the leg third.

Worst to third made for a pretty good episode for the brothers, but they’ve been in a similar position before. During the 16th season that aired last spring, the brothers finished last in the seventh episode of the race, which worked out to be a non-elimination leg. The McCoys then won the eighth leg of the race, becoming the first team in the history of the reality series to go from worst to first in a single leg.

The engaged couple of Blackledge and Klicka weren’t so fortunate, though. They were the 11th team at the “pit stop” and were eliminated.

postheadericon What are you going to watch?

Sunday nights are big nights for rodeo fans who watch their favorite folks on television, and tonight is no different

At 7 p.m. Central, both the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series event from St. Louis and “The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business” will be televised, the PBR on VERSUS and Jet and Cord McCoy on CBS-TV. Then at 8:30 p.m. Central, the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo will air on Great American Country.

What that means is the PBR will have competition for three-quarters of its two-hour program. A lot of PBR fans will want to find out what happens on the second episode of “The Amazing Race.”

So what will you watch, and what will you record?

postheadericon The real backbone of rodeo

There are many facets in the world of rodeo, from the variety of events to the personalities of the contestants to the contractors and committees.

Each has a vital role in the sport’s success.

But the backbone of rodeo isn’t the roper, wrestler or rider, nor is it an amazing animal athlete; the driving force behind rodeo’s greatness is the volunteer, the person who raises the money, promotes the event, paints the fence, moves the livestock, works the ground, sells the tickets, puts up the banners, sells the concessions, handles the hospitality and thousands of other duties that go unnoticed to most folks in the community.

World champions could enter any rodeo they want, but no rodeo will succeed without the volunteers who produce it.

Thanks for all the work you do.

postheadericon Houston state of mind

Beginning Tuesday, the top cowboys and cowgirls will begin their run at the $50,000 top prize delivered to the winners in each event of RodeoHouston, one of the biggest events each year.

This year, though, it will not be part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the top sanctioning body in the sport. However, it will be sanctioned by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and the Professional Bull Riders, which will have five athletes – Reese Cates of El Dorado, Ark.; Cord McCoy of Ada, Okla.; Dusty LaBeth of Louisburg, Kan.; 2001 Chance Roberts of Jewett, Ill.; and Fabiano Vieira of Perola, Brazil – in the field, having earned their place by being in the top five of non-seeded money-earners in the PBR, meaning they were not seeded in the Built Ford Tough Series.

So money earned at Houston will count toward qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the barrel racers and for the PBR World Finals.

With $50,000 going to the winner of Houston’s Shootout, there is plenty of incentive for everyone who has entered, but the qualifications for the world championships are a bigger piece of the prize puzzle for WPRA and PBR members.

Forty contestants (or tandems in team roping) in each event of the men’s events – bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and bull riding – while there will be 50 barrel racers. The bracketed format will feature eight cowboys in each event and 10 barrel racers in each of five Super Series. The top money-earners in each event through the three rounds of each Super Series advance.

It’ll be quite interesting to see how things break down. Check back here, and I’ll try to keep you posted on the happenings inside Reliant Stadium.

postheadericon Rodeo with attitude

If you’ve seen TwisTED Rodeo before, you’ll note the layout redesign.

The new and very improved look is thanks to the fine folks at RodeoAttitude.com, one of the most valuable resources for people looking for information on rodeo. I’ve had a great relationship with Cindy Meyers and her crew of great folks, and I appreciate that business relationship and the friendship that comes with it.

Jimmy Meyers did a wonderful job tweaking the TwisTED Rodeo product. Hopefully you like it as much as I do. I definitely appreciate the work Jimmy has done on making it better.

postheadericon Larry visits the rodeo

Larry the Cable Guy

Larry the Cable Guy

The History Channel has a new series, “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy.” It airs Tuesdays, and it’s something I’ve been interested in seeing.

I just haven’t done it yet.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had a friend send me the YouTube link to the show’s episode that aired this week and will air again Sunday on Larry’s visit to RodeoHouston. It was as educational to non-rodeo types as it was funny, and you should check it out HERE.

Whether you like Dan Whitney’s humor or not — that’s Larry’s real name — you will probably get a kick out of watching the segment. You’ll even see a little of Whitney come out after a bull sends the Larry character right out of him.

postheadericon The Guymon commitment

In working on the promotion for the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo, I heard a great story about how the annual showcase went from a little event to a large affair.

It’s been 19 years since Robert Etbauer won his second straight saddle bronc riding world championship in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Melyn Johnson was working at the Guymon Daily Herald, and she was assigned to do a story on Etbauer and his bronc riding brothers, all living in the neighboring town of Goodwell, home of one of the top rodeo programs in the country at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

During their gathering, Johnson asked Etbauer if he competed in the Pioneer Days Rodeo. Of course, he did; it was considered a hometown rodeo to those who lived in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Johnson pressed further, asking if the Pioneer Days event was a good rodeo, but Etbauer pressed back, saying it’s always good to compete at your hometown rodeo.

So Johnson asked another way: “If this weren’t your hometown rodeo, would you enter?”

Etbauer said no. There wasn’t much prize money, and the rodeo wasn’t set up to be cowboy-friendly. Those things made it tough on the organizers to draw many contestants, much less the top names in the game.

So Johnson said, “Why don’t you join the rodeo committee and make it better?”

Etbauer replied, “I will if you will.”

Within weeks, Robert Etbauer walked into businesses all over town and talked about the potential of the Pioneer Days Rodeo. He knocked on many doors and gained sponsors, and before long, the money raised for Pioneer Days Rodeo doubled.

Of course, it’s hard for people to say no to a man wearing a world champion’s gold buckle when he walks into their doors and talks about taking their community into the big time of ProRodeo.

Nearly two decades have passed since Etbauer made that commitment, and Pioneer Days Rodeo has grown into one of the top stops in the game. Most big-time players won’t miss it, and a big reason behind that is the commitment of many who have followed in Etbauer’s footsteps.

postheadericon In the Feild of play

I was a little surprised when I got the results from the final go-round of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo on Saturday night.

An arena record 93-point ride occurred in bareback riding; that wasn’t a surprise. But learning that Tilden Hooper’s ride on Classic Pro Rodeo’s Big Tex wasn’t the record-breaking ride was a shock – Hooper and Big Tex danced to the tune of a world record-tying 94 points last year. That honor went to Kaycee Feild, who matched moves with JK Rodeo’s Brother.

It helped Feild to the San Antone victory and the biggest paycheck of any winner in the field, $18,927. But there were plenty of big paychecks. Congratulations to the winners:

– Steer wrestling, Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., $17,371
– Team roping, Chad Masters, Clarksville, Tenn., and Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., $15,038 each
– Saddle bronc riding, Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., $18,408
– Tie-down roping, Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, $16,853
– Barrel racing, Britany Fleck, Mandan, N.D., $14, 519
– Bull riding, Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D., $17,890

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