Archive for September, 2017

postheadericon Fair is about youth, scholarship

Having quality musical acts throughout the nine-day event is one of the innovative things associated with the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

Having quality musical acts throughout the nine-day event is one of the innovative things associated with the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Members of the Waller County Fair Board are innovative.

They have to be, they believe, because they have an annual goal to give back. It’s not just providing the region with an excellent exposition that is the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, set for Saturday, Sept. 30-Saturday, Oct. 7.

No, it’s about meeting a mission of giving to youth and scholarship.

“We work to make sure we have a sturdy lineup for attractions,” said Dustin Standley, the fair board’s president. “We put on the PRCA Rodeo, which we keep adding to each year. But we’ve also been creative in other events we do, like the eliminators.”

That’s true. The first is the Tie-Down Roping Eliminator, which features eight cowboys with excellent pedigrees – combined, they have nearly 100 qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and 36 world championships. It will take place Tuesday, Oct. 4.

The following night will feature the Team Roping Eliminator; like Tuesday’s show, it will feature eight of the top teams in ProRodeo. All competitors will compete in the first round, with the slowest times being eliminated. That will continue in all subsequent rounds until champions are crowned each night.

Those are just two of the innovative events that are part of the nine-day exposition. While there are plenty of traditional fair favors, there is something special when it comes to the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. Part of the innovation is getting the right acts at the right time to perform during the concerts.

“This community looks forward to the concerts every year,” said Steven Pfeiffer, chairman of the Fair Board’s entertainment committee. “It’s something they can do with the carnival and the rodeo and everything else we have going on. The way we time it out, everything works together.

“For $15 to get in the gate, you get to see all these acts. You can’t go anywhere else and get that kind of entertainment for that kind of money. We want to get good bang for our buck.”

The concert lineup is spectacular, just as it has been for several years.

  • Jason Cassidy, Shenandoah and Wade Bowen on Saturday, Sept. 30
  • Rick Trevino on Thursday, Oct. 5
  • Kevin Robinson and The Voice’s 2016winner Sundance Head on Friday, Oct. 6
  • Glen Templeton and Josh Ward on Saturday, Oct. 7.

“Adding a third act to the first Saturday so we have three big-time acts allows us to start earlier,” Pfeiffer said. “We’re starting at 8:30 p.m. and going until 1 o’clock in the morning. It allows those that are a little older a chance to see Shenandoah hit the stage at 10 o’clock. They can stay if they want to see Wade Bowen, but it really gives us a chance to open it up to people of all ages to enjoy those concerts.”

The key, he said, it to continue the fair’s giving. Every director involved understands the value behind all the work they put in to make the Waller County Fair and Rodeo such a regional showcase.

“We do all these things because they are our successors,” Standley said of the youth. “If we don’t give them the platform for them to open their education, then we’re not doing them justice.

“We have to give them the pathway. If we don’t give them the structure, then they have the opportunity to stray away. We want them to succeed.”

That not only serves as the Waller County Fair and Rodeo’s mission, it is also a strong lesson in life.

“We give money away to benefit our Waller County high school kids,” Pfeiffer said. “We’re really proud of the scholarships, giving back to the community and seeing the kids’ hard work. Watching those kids go through the show ring or the sell ring is amazing to see.

“It truly makes me happy, makes me smile. That’s why I do this every year.”

postheadericon Kaminski proud of hometown rodeo

Kelly Kaminski earned back-to-back world championships in 2004-05 and is a big part of the Bellville, Texas, rodeo history. She is always excited for her hometown event, the Austin County Fair and Rodeo. (PEGGY GANDER PHOTO)

Kelly Kaminski earned back-to-back world championships in 2004-05 and is a big part of the Bellville, Texas, rodeo history. She is always excited for her hometown event, the Austin County Fair and Rodeo. (PEGGY GANDER PHOTO)

BELLVILLE, Texas – With two world championships on her belt and two more reserve world titles, Kelly Kaminski could have her pick of many rodeos that are her favorites.

“This is our hometown rodeo,” said Kaminski, who won barrel racing gold buckles in 2004-05 and was runner-up the two years previously. “It’s very special to me. I won this rodeo one year, and you would’ve thought I won the NFR. It was as I was up and coming and before I won the world, but it is still a special memory.”

It should be, and she’s excited about this year’s rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Austin County Fairgrounds in Bellville. There are many reasons behind it, from great action to the best personnel in the game.

“There are a lot of special memories here, and we’ve had some great concerts and great country artists over the years at the fair,” she said. “Our little rodeo has some amazing talent that some folks in our county don’t even understand.”

That talent includes the voice of the Bellville rodeo, Boyd Polhamus, a four-time PRCA Announcer of the Year who has called the action at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 21 times. He will work with John Harrison, a three-time Comedy Act of the Year winner; Dusty Tuckness, now the reigning seven-time Bullfighter of the Year; and Sandy Gwatney, the 2016 PRCA Secretary of the Year.

“For a small rodeo like this, it’s really special,” Kaminski said. “What’s neat about rodeo is you can see the people up close. From a fan’s perspective, these are the people you admire or look up to in your sport. You can see people you’ve watched at a national level. That’s a pretty neat thing.”

That’s what makes rodeo great, especially in Bellville, where the fans know the sport. They understand what it means to witness a world champion in action, and they show up to see the best in the world compete in their hometown.

Kaminski has been one of the best during her storied career. She spends a great deal of her time now with the Junior NFR, an event that features youngsters competing in Las Vegas in conjunction with ProRodeo’s grand championship. She also spent a great deal of time this year on the road with her 19-year-old daughter, Kenna, who is running barrels just like Mom.

“We’re very close, because I raised her on the road,” Kaminski said of her relationship with Kenna. “The girl can ride. Her horsemanship is outstanding, and she’s got a lot of talent with horses.”

Some of that is genetics, but a big portion comes from the hard work Kenna has put in alongside her mother. Kelly Kaminski competed some over the summer, mostly on backup horses to help them get seasoned as the animals and Kenna learned the ropes of the rodeo trail.

Now they’re back in southeast Texas. It’s home, a place Kelly Kaminski has lived for 26 years. She’s proud of the heritage that sits in Austin County, and she’s excited to be part of rodeo’s history.

“The first time I went to the finals and came back as reserve (world champion), I got such a wonderful reception,” said Kaminski, one of just seven women to have won back-to-back gold buckles. “For me, it was really special because I felt like I put our town on the map. Bringing that attention to it and make my town proud really meant a lot to me.”

postheadericon Long returning for WPRA brunch

Missy Long won the barrel racing world championship at age 13, then she traveled a rough road. She will speak in Duncan during the WPRA brunch in conjunction with the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Missy Long won the barrel racing world championship at age 13, then she traveled a rough road. She will speak in Duncan during the WPRA brunch in conjunction with the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo. (COURTESY PHOTO)

DUNCAN, Okla. – Great stories are not always championships realized and life happily ever after.

Missy Long has a story to tell, and she will have the opportunity during the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association brunch held in conjunction with the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

The brunch will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Stephens County Arena Conference Center.

Long lived in Duncan when she won the barrel racing world championship in 1969 at the age of 13, making her one of the youngest world champions in WPRA history. Only Ann Lewis (10) and LaTonne Sewalt (11) were younger.

Long returned to the NFR a year later and finished 11th in the world standings. But life after her rodeo run wasn’t always as pleasant. A movie about her story, “Too Young To Drive,” is being made, and it will likely tell the tale of a woman who went from young world champion to a life with drugs, imprisonment and homelessness before she found the redemption through her faith.

It’s one of the reasons why she will speak to WPRA members next month in Duncan, where she moved to as a youngster so she and her brother, Ricky, could pursue rodeo. Their father, Al Long, introduced his children to the Youree Horsemanship and Rodeo Camps near Addington, Okla., and the family quickly found a home in Stephens County.

The Yourees directed Al and Missy Long to Joyce Burk Kernek, a Duncan cowgirl. Kernek had a nice sorrel, Leo Thistle, that Dale Youree believed would be a good fit for Missy Long. The Longs acquired the gelding, and Dandy helped carry Missy Long to the gold buckle.

Though she has since moved away from Duncan, local organizers of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo and members of the WPRA are excited about Missy Long’s return to town to share her story and how she has returned to the glory of her faith.

postheadericon Special-needs kids get a special day

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Barnyard Buddies isn’t just a big hit for the special-needs children involved in the day at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

The program – now in its fourth year and planned for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4 – has become a place to be for other youth interested in helping the special-needs youngsters.

“Last year we have 205 special-needs kids and 250 other kids from FFA, 4H, student councils and other organizations that came out and helped,” said Julie Abke, director with the Waller County Fair Board who oversees Barnyard Buddies. “We even had people from Tomball and Navasota, which are not in our county, that helped us out.”

That’s saying something. Barnyard Buddies was established to give special-education students in the county a special day just for them at the fair.

“It’s a spot that’s dear to my heart, because my mom was a special-ed teacher,” Abke said. “It’s something I wanted to see happen.

“I just feel it’s good for these special-needs kids that have a chance to interact with the fair. It gives them a chance for them to do something they never get a chance to do.”

Whether it’s enjoying the rides or getting up close with the animals, there are plenty of activities for the children involved. It’s important for them to gather all these experiences that so many people take for granted.

“My family, we live on a farm, so animals are second nature to us,” she said. “We rodeo for a hobby. A lot of people don’t do it, so this is a new experience for so many people.

“I just want this to get bigger and better every year. One of our sponsors is donating some ropes for the kids to have. The kids love the roping station.”

From time to treats, there are a number of people who make sure to donate each year so it’s something special for each youngster.

“It’s just great to see the smiles on their faces and them laughing and having a good time,” Abke said. “You just have to see it to believe it.

“They do appreciate it, and they do like it. Last year the petting zoo brought a pony ride with it. What does my heart the best is seeing the smiles on the helpers’ faces. They’re happy do be doing what they’re doing, and that’s seeing these kids enjoying their day.”

postheadericon 2017 nominations include music directors

The nominations for the 2017 PRCA awards were posted Thursday on both ProRodeo.com and WranglerNetwork.com.

This year’s awards include a new category, Music Director of the Year, which includes nominees Andrew “Drew” Taylor, Brenda Winklepleck, Jill Franzen Loden, Josh “Hambone” Hilton and Randy “Stretch” Mayer.

I’ve been blessed to work with someone or some entity from virtually every category, but there are many who are worthy of the nominations. I wish everyone great success.

Ted Harbin TwisTed Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTed Rodeo

Lifetime Achievement Award
Dan Hubbell
James Svoboda
Jim and Julie Sutton
Mildred Klingemann
Pete Burns (posthumously)

Announcer of the Year
Andy Stewart
Bob Tallman
Mike Mathis
Randy Corley
Wayne Brooks

Bullfighter of the Year
Brandon Loden
Clay Heger
Cody Webster
Dusty Tuckness
Nate Jestes

Clown of the Year
Cody Sosebee
J.J. Harrison
John Harrison
Justin Rumford
Keith Isley

Comedy Act of the Year
Bert Davis
David Whitmoyer
Gizmo McCracken
Johnny Dudley
Mark Swingler

Dress Act of the Year
Bobby Kerr
Madison MacDonald
One Arm Bandit & Co.
Rider Kiesner
Thomas Garcilazo

Secretary of the Year
Amanda Corley-Sanders
Brenda Crowder
Haley Bridwell
Linda Alsbaugh
Sandy Gwatney

Stock Contractor of the Year
Cervi Championship Rodeo
Frontier Rodeo
Pete Carr Pro Rodeo
Powder River Rodeo
Stace Smith Pro Rodeos

Pickup Man of the Year
Gary Rempel
Jeremy Willis
Shandon Stalls
Shaun Calhoun
Will O’Connell

Small Rodeo of the Year
Claremore, Okla.
Coulee City, Wash.
Elizabeth, Colo.
Huntsville, Texas
Monte Vista, Colo.

Medium Rodeo of the Year
Amarillo, Texas
Coleman, Texas
Deadwood, S.D.
Eagle, Colo.
Stephenville, Texas

Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year
Denver
Fort Worth, Texas
Nampa, Idaho
San Angelo, Texas
San Antonio

Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year
Caldwell, Idaho
Cheyenne, Wyo.
Dodge City, Kan.
Ogden, Utah
Pendleton, Ore.

postheadericon Rangers men open with a victory

ALVA, Okla. – It was a virtual clean sweep for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University men’s rodeo team.

The Rangers had the winners in all three timed events this past weekend at the Colby (Kan.) Community College rodeo and earned the first team title of the new Central Plains Region season. Northwestern earned 503.3 points to outlast reigning national champion Oklahoma Panhandle State University by just 13.3 points to claim the crown.

“We have a lot of great guys where we can get those team points stacked up,” said Riley Wakefield, a junior from O’Neill, Neb. “Since I first started, I’ve learned that every event matters. There are guys here that really show that well.”

Bubba Allred

Grayson Allred

Competing in his first Central Plains rodeo of his career, Wakefield won the tie-down roping title in Colby, edging teammate Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, by just two-tenths of a second. Those two cowboys accounted for more than half the team points and bolstered the Rangers to a strong finish.

They were joined in the winner’s circle by steer wrestler Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, and team ropers Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, and Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla.

“That’s probably the most exciting part, that the guys in our team delivered in different areas,” said Wakefield, who transferred after having a solid two-year career at Gillette (Wyo.) College. “By being able to win all three timed events, it shows that we have people who can pick up the slack in those events. It’s great to have people in all those events.”

Cody Devers

Cody Devers

He roped and tied his first calf in 10.9 seconds, finishing fifth in the opening round. He then stopped the clock in 9.7 seconds to win the final round and overtake the average. When the top cowboys faltered in the championship round, Wakefield took a big step forward. Allred finished third in both rounds and moved up two spots with a two-run cumulative time of 20.8 seconds.

“I’ve roped with ‘Bubba’ at all the practices in Alva, and he does a great job,” Wakefield said of Allred. “I think that makes us rope better, because we have that competition every day and get to rope with somebody that matches your skill level and helps you improve.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose to come to school here. I knew there were guys here that were going to push me. I knew I would be getting around people that will make you better.”

Harper and Nall were just two of five Rangers team ropers in the short round. They were joined by Cole Koppitz of Alva, Okla., and his partner, Cole Quaney of Cheney, Kan., and Allred, who roped with Sam Stamper of Oklahoma State University.

Harper and Nall finished third in the opening round with a 7.4-second run, while Allred and Stamper stopped the clock in 8.0 to place fifth. The Harper-Nall tandem then won the final round with a 7.5, and their 14.9 cumulative time earned them the overall title. Allred-Stamper and Koppitz-Quaney were unable to secure a short-round time.

Devers was dominant in steer wrestling. He won both rounds and posted the fastest run of the weekend in the championship when he scored a 3.7-second run. He accumulated 180 points all by himself. Talon Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa, finished second, while Ethan Price of Leedy, Okla., was third.

Harper placed fifth in bulldogging, and Allred finished sixth – not only did Allred make the short round in all three events, but he also scored points in each. What’s more impressive is that all five Northwestern bulldoggers placed.

“Looking at our team and lineup, I have high hopes for all these rodeos,” Wakefield said. “We have so many guys that do multiple events so well. If two or three of us can step up and place along in multiple events, that’s just going to help us. Hopefully we can continue to have different guys deliver.”

While the men earned the championship, the Rangers women put together a solid performance. Nine Northwestern cowgirls made the championship round, including Jennifer Massing, who made the short round and earned points in both goat tying and barrel racing.

Massing, of Ponoka, Alberta, won the first round of barrel racing with a 16.92-second run, the fastest of the rodeo. She fell off pace a little in the final round but still finished second in the average. Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., finished second in the opening round, fourth in the short round and third in the average. Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., finished in a tie for sixth, while Baillie Wiseman of Aztec, N.M., also earned her place in the championship.

Massing also finished third in the average in goat tying, just a 10th of a second behind teammate Melissa Couture of Springdale, Ark., the runner-up. Meghan Carr finished fourth. Katy Miller of Faith, S.D., finished second in the opening round but failed to have a time in the short round. Aundrea Dufrane of Dawson, Minn., also advanced to the final round.

Brittany Cudworth of Warwick, N.D., secured her breakaway-roping catch to ensure a top-three finish in the short round and average. After advancing to the championship with a 3.7-second run, Cudworth roped her calf in 12.4 seconds, but she was one of just three cowgirls to secure a short-round time.

With that many Rangers in the final round, they gave themselves every opportunity to capitalize.

“Through my experience, I’ve learned that if you make the short round at every rodeo, you’re going to end up good in the standings,” Wakefield said. “We just need to keep doing that, and I think it’s going to show in the long run.”

postheadericon Mo’ Betta makes everything better

BELLVILLE, Texas – A little more than a decade ago, Maury Tate traded in his roping horse for a herd of bucking animals.

He had transitioned from the life of a competitive tie-down roper into stock contractor, and he has no interest in looking back. That’s a good thing for the sport and for the Austin County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Austin County Fairgrounds.

Tate’s Mo’ Betta Rodeo produces Bellville’s annual rodeo, and he does a pretty good job at it. It’s quite a bit different than when he traveled the rodeo circuit as a talented roper – among his credentials is claiming the National Circuit Finals Rodeo championship in 1991.

“Being a stock contractor is a way to be involved in the sport,” said Tate, who runs the outfit with his wife, Nikki. “It’s really about the only way to be involved. I love the sport of rodeo and the people in it.

“For me, the biggest thing is that I love the livestock. That is the most fun thing, taking new animals and getting them chute broke and getting them to handle and be around.”

This is just the next phase of exciting times for the Mo’ Betta brand. Tate introduced the name three decades ago when he developed the Mo’ Betta clothing line, which featured brightly patterned Western shirts eventually popularized by country artist Garth Brooks.

Now the Tates are well respected as stock contractors.

“Mo’ Betta raises some of the best horses and bulls in the industry,” said Chuck Swisher, who will fight bulls in Bellville with Dusty Tuckness. “Maury knows his way around livestock very well. They keep the atmosphere laid back, because they know the guys they hire are going to do their jobs.”

That’s an important aspect in rodeo production, and it’s a key factor in what makes the Austin County Fair and Rodeo such a successful event each year.

“It’s a great rodeo, and they pack the stands every night,” Tate said. “I think one of the reasons it’s so great is the town of Bellville. It’s the county fair, and the whole community is very supportive of their town, their county and the kids.

“All that fair is for its to raise money for kids, and everyone comes out to show their support for them.”

In a similar fashion, Mo’ Betta Rodeo caters to contestants. It comes from Tate’s experience on that side of the game, and he has kept that idea in the forefront of his mission as he prepares for each performance.

“As a contestant, I know what it’s like to drive all night to a rodeo, and when I get there I don’t have a chance to win,” he said, referring to the random draw that matches cowboy vs. livestock. “There were better cattle in the pen, and I didn’t draw one of them.

“So I want the contestants to have as fair a shot as they can no matter what animal they draw. I want to make it as even as possible for everyone. That’s what the sport is about.”

It’s a winning combination, and it’s a drawing card for some of the best in the game to make their way to Bellville. Because of other rodeos in the region – the All American ProRodeo Finale takes place in Waco, Texas, at the same time – it should open the door for many to make their way to Austin County.

“We’d definitely like to draw some of those contestants to Bellville if they can make it work in their schedules, because they have a chance to earn some good money,” Tate said, referring to the $4,000 the committee has put into the purse that is mixed with entry fees to make the overall payout.

“Before the schedule changed (to end Sept. 30), it used to be one of the last rodeos of the year. Now it’s one of the first rodeos of the new season (2018), and they can get off to a good start with a good showing in Bellville.”

Over the course of the year, Mo’ Betta livestock will be featured in 200 rodeo performances. For Tate, the focus will always be on making each night of each rodeo the best it can be.

“Maury wants to be successful not only for himself, but for everyone around him,” Tuckness said.

That’s the meaning of being a cowboy, and it’s a key reason why Mo’ Betta Rodeo and the Austin County Fair continue to find success.

postheadericon Circuit finale similar to the NFR

Chet Herren, an 11-time qualifier to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping, leads the Prairie Circuit's steer roping standings heading into the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in mid-October. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Chet Herren, an 11-time qualifier to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping, leads the Prairie Circuit’s steer roping standings heading into the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in mid-October. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

DUNCAN, Okla. – While rodeo is nothing new in this neck of the woods, there’s something quite special when rodeo hits the Stephens County Arena in October.

That’s because Duncan is home to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21. It’s not just another rodeo, though.

This is the championship for the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region, and that means the best of the best earn their way to Stephens County every fall. How good are these cowboys and cowgirls? More than two dozen of those that are expected to compete have all played or will play on the grandest stage of theme all: The National Finals.

“The thing about our circuit is that we have so many of the top cowboys and cowgirls in the world competing at our circuit finals,” said Joe Henderson, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual finale. “People around here know rodeo, but they don’t get to see the caliber of contestants that will be here for the circuit finals.”

The largest contingent is in steer roping, where eight cowboys have been part of the mix at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. From four-time world champion Rocky Patterson to multiple-time qualifiers Chet Herren, J.P. Wickett, Mike Chase and C.A. Lauer, the field for the Prairie Circuit’s steer roping championship is stacked. Also in the mix are NFSR qualifiers Cody Scheck, Shorty Garten and Ralph Williams.

Stockton Graves

Stockton Graves

Steer wrestling will feature a quartet of NFR qualifiers, including seven-time finalist and Prairie Circuit champion Stockton Graves. He will be joined by three-time qualifier Jule Hazen and two cowboys who appeared in Vegas for the first time last year: J.D. Struxness and Riley Duvall.

The team roping tandem of Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens – who lead their respective events in the circuit – also have NFR experience. Saebens is heading to Vegas for the second time, while this will mark Proctor’s fourth straight run for the gold.

In bareback riding, seven-time NFR qualifier Steven Dent leads the standings, while fellow NFR qualifier Jared Keylon is set to return to the circuit finals. Keylon is a former circuit champ. The bronc riding field will include NFR veterans Cort Scheer and Tyrel Larsen, while Hardy Braden is set to compete in Vegas for the first time this December.

“When you look at the list of contestants we have every year, this is really a great preview for the NFR,” Henderson said. “You’re not going to go to any place this close to home where you can see this many NFR cowboys and cowgirls competing in one building for three straight days. That’s what sets our rodeo apart from all the others.”

Local cowboy Ryan Jarrett of nearby Comanche, Okla., leads the tie-down roping race, but also in the mix are nine-time circuit champ and 11-time NFR qualifier Jerome Schneeberger and one-time finalist Trent Creager. Bull riding should feature three-time qualifiers Trevor Kastner and Brennon Eldred.

In barrel racing, two-time national finalist Jane Melby comes in toward the top of the circuit standings. She will be joined by her daughter, Cayla Small, a 2016 qualifier, and Jean Winters, who made the NFR in 2014.

“The great thing we have in our circuit is not only some of the best in all of rodeo, but we have some great races that are going to come down to Saturday night before we decide our year-end champions,” Henderson said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and very exciting.”

postheadericon Rodeo to feature NFR bullfighters

Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla., will be one of two bullfighters at the Austin County Fair and Rodeo that have worked the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla., will be one of two bullfighters at the Austin County Fair and Rodeo that have worked the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

BELLVILLE, Texas – Years before he was one of the most popular bullfighters in rodeo, Dusty Tuckness was a key fixture at the Austin County Fair and Rodeo.

“Bellville was one of my very first PRCA rodeos I got to work,” said Tuckness, the reigning seven-time Bullfighter of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “It’s cool because of the fact that I was hired by Mo’ Betta Rodeo, which got their contracting card in 2006, about the same year I got my (PRCA membership) card.”

Dusty Tuckness, who will work the Bellville rodeo for the 11th time, has been named the PRCA Bullfighter of the Year each of the last seven seasons. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Dusty Tuckness, who will work the Bellville rodeo for the 11th time, has been named the PRCA Bullfighter of the Year each of the last seven seasons. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

He returns for the 11th time in 12 years – he had to miss one year because of an injury. The Wyoming man brings a boatload of talent to the Austin County Fairgrounds for the rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct. 14.

“Mo’ Betta gave me some of my first breaks, and the Bellville committee has always been so good to me,” he said. “It’s a good county fair and a good, solid rodeo committee. It’s in a good community, and it’s fun to come back and see where it all started.”

He is one of two men in the arena whose jobs are to keep everyone safe during bull riding. They utilize their exceptional athleticism to distract the bulls once each rider hits the ground – whether it’s before the qualifying 8-second ride or after. It’s oftentimes a thankless job, but it’s necessary.

He’s been so good, Tuckness has been selected to fight bulls at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo each of the past eight seasons. In Bellville, he will battle bovines alongside Oklahoman Chuck Swisher, who fought at the NFR with Tuckness in 2014.

“Chuck is a good guy to have on the other side,” Tuckness said of his partner. “He’s fun to be around, and he has good fundamentals. We get along good in the arena together.”

They need to. It’s vital that the two men can read the situation and react in collaboration in order to help keep everyone safe. Of course, having the opportunity to work a great event like the Austin County Fair and Rodeo is a bonus.

“Bellville is a really awesome rodeo,” Swisher said. “It’s a cool venue with a really good crowd. It’s nice to be in that area of Texas at that time of year.”

He also recognized that much of southeast Texas will need a full weekend of entertainment after the struggles that impacted the region after Hurricane Harvey blasted the area.

“Hopefully we don’t have to swim around any bulls,” he said with a laugh. “This will be my fifth year going there now, and I always look forward to being there. It’s cool to have a whole community come together and make such a great event. It’s a sandy arena, so it’ll hold all that Harvey rain.”

And like Tuckness, Swisher understands how important it is to have a solid partner in the arena.

“The sport we’re in isn’t the safest sport, so you want to be able to work with a professional that handless business on their side,” Swisher said. “Tuck is always on point, so that helps me step up my game.”

When the game is as dangerous as dancing with bulls, teamwork is the ultimate key. Tuckness and Swisher have it.

postheadericon Simas returns to call circuit finals

Greg Simas returns to Duncan, Okla., next month to call the action at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo for the second year in a row. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GREG SIMAS)

Greg Simas returns to Duncan, Okla., next month to call the action at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo for the second year in a row. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GREG SIMAS)

DUNCAN, Okla. – Greg Simas doesn’t come from this part of the country.

He was raised in northern California, a stone’s throw from Sacramento. After serving six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he has found a home in Danville, Pa. But that hasn’t stopped Simas from understanding rodeo’s history in mid-America.

He knows well that real rodeo sits in the heartland. He knows the players, the game and, most importantly, how it all plays out when the best in the region get together for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

“For me, being a fan of rodeo, the Prairie Circuit Finals is a mini-NFR,” he said of ProRodeo’s grand finale, which features the top 15 from the world standings in each event. “You’re going to see some of the best cowboys in the game – world champions, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers and many that will be NFR qualifiers.

“When you work the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, the odds are you have a contestant in every event that has been or will be going to the NFR. That’s exciting.”

Simas is more than a fan. He returns for the second straight year as the voice of the regional finale, and he brings the emotion and knowledge to the game that fans in Duncan expect when they see the best of the best in action.

“What’s great is the level of competition in Duncan,” he said. “Then you take the contestants and add all the great stock contractors, and you have NFR-caliber livestock. For me and the rodeo fans – for those who can’t make it to Vegas in December for the NFR – they can go to the Stephens County Arena and see some world-class caliber entertainment.”

It’s true, but it helps that Simas’ voice helps provide a championship feel to the competition and entertainment. Maybe it’s his years of service as a Marine, where he also learned to ride bulls. Maybe it’s that his father was a competitor in California. Most likely, though, it’s because of his love for the game.

“Every rodeo I’ve worked outside of the Northeastern part of the United States, I’ve been asked to come back,” Simas said. “I’m very proud to have overcome the stereotype that people in that part of the country don’t know rodeo as well. The dedication and commitment I learned in the Marine Corps has kept me charging forward.

“There is no way I could do this, though, if it wasn’t for my incredible wife, Jen, and our three boys, Tyler, Riley and Kaden. They give me the drive to keep pushing forward and doing my best each time.”

While there are hours of homework on the contestants and livestock involved in the game, Simas has found joy in every aspect of his job. It’s a telling tribute to his passion.

“Every announcer says that we have the best seat in the house,” he said. “I agree with that. For me, though, it’s like golf in a way. There’s nobody that could ever perfect it.

“When I leave a rodeo, there’s always something I learn from. I can have the best performance in my life, but I leave knowing I can do even better the next time. As long as I stay humble and gracious about the opportunities God provides for me, then I think I can always find a way to get better.”

Those sentiments are why he has established himself as bona fide announcer in ProRodeo. His mentality and preparation make him the perfect fit for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

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