PECOS, Texas – For couples like Hugh and Gail Box, being involved in community activities is just part of their lives.
From serving on boards to being part of the committee that produces the 130th annual West of the Pecos Rodeo, the Boxes are active participants in the west Texas community. Much of their work will be on display next week when thousands flock Buck Jackson Arena to take in the rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26-Saturday, June 29.
“The people that volunteer have it in their hearts, and they love it,” Hugh Box said. “That’s what they want to do to keep this thing going.
“We’re all volunteers. We don’t get a dime out of this; in fact, some of it comes out of our own pockets. We even have box seats, but we don’t get to sit in them because we’re all working. We want to do this for the rodeo and for the community.”
Hugh Box began his commitment to the Pecos rodeo more than 30 years ago, but he’s been around the event all his life. He knows the importance of the rodeo to the community, whether it’s in the city, in Pecos County or all of west Texas.
“I’ve been coming to this since 1952 – we moved here when I was 5 years old,” he said. “I like it because I like Pecos. It’s got tradition. If you’ve never been here, then when you come you’ll see we’re proud of what we’ve got. You go to any town within 100 miles of here, and they don’t have anything like our rodeo.”
Gail Box serves in the rodeo’s hospitality area, a location at the arena that serves the contestants, sponsors, volunteers and contract personnel before, during and after the rodeo. Hugh Box helps his wife some, but like most others who donate their time to produce the annual event, there’s much more.
“In the off-season, we do all the repairs to the arena and handle anything we need to come up with,” he said. “We all sell sponsorships, and we’re basically at this all year. As soon as the rodeo’s over, we get back to work to get ready for next year.
“We have a great group of volunteers. All the volunteers try to do a little of everything. This is not just one guy, but we have a big volunteer group. I’d like to see us get a few more younger people involved, because that’s how we continue this tradition for years to come.”
Hugh is now 65 years old, but he began his status as a rodeo volunteer in his early 30s. He also has served on the school board, the hospital board and numerous other organizations.
“He’s volunteered for so many things all my life,” said Lori Evans, the Boxes’ daughter. “At the rodeo, Dad has sat with us maybe once in all those years. Both my mom and dad are so heavily involved in so many things. Without volunteers, you can’t have a good rodeo.
“Part of it is helping your community, but you’re also helping other people. You don’t have what you have without working. I think seeing that, you learn a lot of values, and you can be more appreciative of what you have.”
Hugh and Gail Box are just two of numerous volunteers that work tirelessly to produce the most historic event in rodeo. In all, they account for hundreds of man-hours. From finding sponsors that will invest in the rodeo to preparing the arena and stands to selling tickets, each step of the process falls upon those who are willing to donate their time and talents to the community’s biggest event.
“It’s such a big deal because it’s the world’s first rodeo,” Hugh Box said. “It’s got a history that every cowboy understands, and every cowboy would like to win a buckle here that says they won Pecos. Most cowboys want to have that under their belt.
“Our rodeo is one of the main events that brings people and money into the community. That week is the biggest selling point of the year for most of those stores. The whole town prospers.”
That’s a big factor in why so many community-minded people roll up their sleeves throughout the year to plan and prepare for that one week in June.
“Pecos has so much going for it,” Box said. “It’s right here off Interstate 20 and not far from Interstate 10. We’re right in the hub of everything, and we’ve got a lot to offer.”