HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the same thing: The Hempstead rodeo was the best event in the early part of the 2014 ProRodeo campaign.
“We’re very proud of how well things went for our rodeo this year,” said Clint Sciba, president of the Waller County Fair Board and chairman of the rodeo committee. “We had the top cowboys and cowgirls in the sport in all three performances, and they were treated like royalty. The fans loved it.”
How good was the event? Of the 10 contestants who earned the Montana Silversmiths buckles for their Hempstead championships, nine have qualified for ProRodeo’s grand finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It was an elite group that bettered a field of the sport’s very best, and it was an amazing symbol for the work of the local organizers did in the months leading up to the fair and rodeo.
The Waller County Fair and Rodeo featured the richest bareback riding competition the opening week of the 2014 campaign. In addition, there was plenty of money available in other events to serve as a grand enticement for the best in the business to make their way to southeast Texas.
“Cowboys make their living in rodeo, so if we wanted the best to be here, then we knew we had to get the money in the purse for them,” said Dustin Standley, chairman of the sponsorship committee. “But we worked hard on a lot of other things, too. The cowboys and cowgirls, and their families, were catered to in our Snake River Whiskey VIP Tent, and they got a great, home-cooked meal and all the free cold beverages before and after the rodeo.
“We also brought in the Methodist Sports Medicine team to care for the cowboys and cowgirls.”
Whatever aches and pains came about were quickly washed away through the high level of competition. In fact, four of the top five rides so far this season, as well as four of the five fastest timed event scores of the opening weekend, occurred in Hempstead.
Bareback riding, 89 points: Steven Dent, a six-time qualifier from Mullen, Neb., rode Carr Pro Rodeo’s Real Deal, the 2005 Bareback Horse of the Year; Winn Ratliff, a 2012 qualifier from Leesville, La., rode Carr’s River Boat Annie, the 2007 Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse. Both horses will appear at the NFR for the ninth straight year.
Saddle bronc riding, 88 points: Sam Spreadborough, a two-time qualifier from Snyder, Texas, rode Carr’s Take the Plunge, a horse that has performed in both bareback riding and bronc riding at the NFR.
Bull riding, 90 points: Cooper Davis, who will compete at the NFR this year for the first time in his career, is from Jasper, Texas, and he rode Carr’s One Bad Cat.
Steer wrestling, 3.6 seconds: Cole Edge of Durant, Okla., won the title with the fastest bulldogging run of any ProRodeo last weekend.
Team roping, 3.8 seconds: NFR qualifiers Colby Lovell of Madisonville, Texas, and Martin Lucero of Stephenville, Texas, earned $2,335 each.
Steer roping, 34.0 seconds on three runs: Ralph Williams, a two-time National Finals qualifier from Skiatook, Okla., earned nearly $2,700 in Hempstead.
Barrel racing, 15.64 seconds: 2013 NFR qualifier Taylor Jacob, the barrel racing rookie of the year, beat a talented field to win $2,037.
Tie-down roping, 7.5 seconds: Scott Kormos, an eight-time NFR qualifier from Teague, Texas, posted the second-fastest run of the weekend by just one-tenth of a second.
“I truly believe that one of the big reasons we can bring in so many great cowboys to our rodeo is because we have Pete Carr as our stock contractor,” Sciba said, referring to the owner of Carr Pro Rodeo and Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo. “We will settle for nothing less than the Vegas-style production that Pete Carr guarantees.
“The cowboys deserve it, and our fans have come to expect that kind of production at our rodeo.”
The proof was seen inside the arena. A great rodeo is built on high scores and fast times, and none were better than the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. It was a big hit for the contestants, which included 75 that have qualified for the National Finals. As the competition unfolded, fans got to witness the elite in the game, including those top-tier contestants that represent 29 Montana Silversmiths gold buckles.
“I think our fans really enjoyed our rodeo this year, and who wouldn’t?” Sciba said. “It was a great show from start to finish.”