CLAREMORE, Okla. – Professional rodeo contestants are part of a gypsy lifestyle.
They travel the country in modified carriages that feature elaborate trailers housing living quarters and room for horses and other equipment. Most of their time on the rodeo trail is actually behind the wheel, with breaks along the highway in order to compete.
It’s that reality that has led the organizers of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo to make a change in their annual event. Performances remain scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Friday, May 23-Sunday, May 25, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena. Discounted tickets can be found on the rodeo’s website, www.WillRogersStampede.com; fans can also follow the rodeo on Facebook.
But there’s more competition than time allows in a typical performance. That is why most rodeos feature slack, a time designated to allow the overflow of contestants to perform.
“We wanted to help the contestants out as much as possible, so we won’t have slack on Thursday (May 22) at all,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the rodeo. “Instead, we will have our slack for barrel racers, steer wrestlers and team ropers on Friday morning, then we will have tie-down roping and steer roping on Saturday.”
That seems to be a winning ingredient for contestants.
“It’s actually better for us,” said steer wrestler Stockton Graves, a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Alva, Okla. “As far as the (Prairie) Circuit goes, the only other one going on is in Mulvane (Kan.) that week, so this works well in our schedule.
“I think it was a good idea on their part; that way people can work both circuit rodeos.”
For the world’s greatest steer ropers, the day change allows for great opportunities to make a significant income. In addition to the rodeo in Claremore, contestants will have the opportunity to compete at another Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event in Bandera, Texas, as well as non-sanctioned events in Saginaw, Texas, and Groesbeck, Texas.
“This year, a guy can go to Claremore and get done Saturday morning,” said Rocky Patterson, a three-time world champion from Pratt, Kan. “We can go to the Windy Ryon (in Saginaw) on Sunday, then go down to Groesbeck on Monday, so it works well in our schedule.”
The change will make things more convenient for everyone involved.
“It allows us the opportunity to take care of the contestants while spending less time on the production end of it,” Petty said. “It’ll be easier on the volunteers and easier on the contestants. I think it will be better.”