postheadericon Rodeo brings community together

McALESTER, Okla. – There are many attractive things about this community.

“We’re the largest city in southeast Oklahoma with 18,000 people,” said Jeff Warmuth, the president and CEO of the McAlester Area Chamber of Commerce. “We feel like we’ve got a town of 40,000, because people come in from other communities to shop and to work. It’s a small town with a big-town appeal.”

Jeff Warmuth

Jeff Warmuth

As the regional hub, McAlester also serves as a premier home to exciting activities, including the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.

This is the newest in a long line of world-class events to be showcased in Pittsburg County, but rodeo is nothing new to McAlester. In fact, the community was a showcase for the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo for decades. The prison rodeo was discontinued following the 2009 event.

“Rodeo has a strong history in Oklahoma, and it’s strong in this area of the state,” Warmuth said. “Rodeo is sort of like a hometown team. All of these towns have a heritage of winning traditions. All of those communities have somebody famous that was a rodeo athlete. I think it’s important for those communities to show pride and to not forget those superstars that they’ve produced.”

A one-hour drive in any direction of McAlester will reveal communities that can boast of ProRodeo world champions. That’s a pretty strong legacy.

“It’s an honor for us to be that regional hub surrounded by all that talent and all that history,” Warmuth said. “It’s cool to even put on an event of this size and reach out to those communities.”

People in those communities are used to making their ways to McAlester, whether it’s for CultureFest or Western Days.

“We also have the second-longest running armed forces parade in May,” Warmuth said. “It’s a two-day event, saluting all the armed forces, all branches of the military.”

Those types of the events not only bring people to town but also instill a high level of community pride. That’s just what chamber members want to see out of the McAlester ProRodeo. Though the inaugural event is planned for just two days in mid-February, there is always room for growth.

“I would like for the rodeo to be the event in the community in five years,” Warmuth said. “I’d like to see families plan to come to this year after year, that this is what they look forward to.

“We also want to tie other things into it as well. We’re trying to create an atmosphere and an event that people want to come to every year.”

That’s just what the community deserves.

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