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postheadericon Concerts key to fair’s success

Gregg Allman will be one of the featured acts during the Lea County Fair and Rodeo's concert series during the annual exposition, set for July 31-Aug. 8 in Lovington, N.M.

Gregg Allman will be one of the featured acts during the Lea County Fair and Rodeo’s concert series during the annual exposition, set for July 31-Aug. 8 in Lovington, N.M.

LOVINGTON, N.M. – From rising stars to an “American Idol” to a Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the 2015 Lea County Fair and Rodeo will have the perfect mix for fairgoers.

“I think our lineup is exciting and is holding to the standards that we’ve developed over the past few years,” said Corey Helton, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board.

Helton and the rest of the folks in southeastern New Mexico should be excited. Not only does the exposition feature a top-rated carnival, a world-class rodeo and amazing local fixtures, the fair also has six amazing acts set to perform through its nine nights at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington:

Lea County Fair LogoSaturday, Aug. 1: Richochet
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Cody Johnson
Wednesday, Aug 5: Crowder
Thursday, Aug. 6: Dan + Shay
Friday, Aug. 7: Scotty McCreery
Saturday, Aug. 8:
Gregg Allman

“I think they’ll all be great shows,” Helton said.

Richochet kicks off the fair with a special show on the opening Saturday night. The country band has been around for nearly two decades and still boasts of being the only country artist to chart the national anthem. Richochet’s first No. 1 hit, “Daddy’s Money,” showcases the band’s harmonies that they’ve carried with them since the beginning.

After the Lea County Xtreme Bulls on Tuesday, the fair will celebrate Texas Country music with chart-topper Cody Johnson. He will provide a spark to the week filled with great entertainment.

“I like the crowd to sing along, yell or whatever makes them feel part of the show,” Johnson said on his website. “I love big crowds because of the energy and showmanship I can exhibit.”

That likely will be the case at the fair in Lovington, which has seen significant crowds over the last several years. A big reason for that is the economical admission price; for just $8 ($6 for children), anyone can enjoy all the festivities on the fairgrounds.

“You pay one price for the day, and you get to enjoy it all: the shows, the exhibits, the daily entertainers, the rodeo, the concerts and have the opportunity to take in all the carnival rides,” Helton said. “There’s a lot to our fair, and I think that makes it attractive.”

Crowder will be the featured piece for Christian music night. Raised in east Texas, David Crowder has loved to share his faith through music.

Country artists Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney first met in December 2012. Within a year, the duo had released its first single, “19 You + Me.” They have been nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year in the Academy of Country Music Awards.

“Country music fans are extremely passionate and loyal,” Smyers said in an interview with SheKnows.com. “We are extremely thankful for the support the country community has shown for us and can’t wait to share more of the journey with them.”

McCreery won Season 10 of “American Idol” when he was 17 years old. Since then, he has sold more than 2.5 million albums. Two singles from his inaugural album, “I Love you This Big” and “The Trouble with Girls,” have been certified platinum.

Allman was one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band and also has had an amazing solo career. In addition to singing and playing for the band, he also wrote many of their hits, including “Dreams,” “Whipping Post,” “Please Call Home,” “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider.”

“We seem to always bring some of the big names on the final Saturday night,” Helton said. “We always want to end our fair and rodeo with a bang, and I think we’re doing that this year.”

postheadericon Locals make Roundup a big deal

Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the Roundup Committee, leads a group of dedicated volunteers who work every year to produce one of the top 25 events in the country.

Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the Roundup Committee, leads a group of dedicated volunteers who work every year to produce one of the top 25 events in the country.

DODGE CITY, Kan. – While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community and more to put on the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

“There’s no possible way this event goes on without the number of volunteers and the great support we get from this community,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual event. “Much of everything that happens with our rodeo is because of the volunteers who devote their time and energy to its success.”

They’re all working for a spectacular week of rodeo starting with an evening of Xtreme Bulls on Tuesday, July 28, and five performances of Roundup from Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2; all performances begin at 7:45 p.m. at Roundup Arena.

The work by the volunteers is a key reason why Dodge City’s rodeo was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2012. In fact, only office manager Elaine Gall and a handful of ticket-window staff members are the only paid employees.

All the rest of the work that goes into making Roundup a successful venture is done community members who hold full-time jobs and who devote their spare time.

“We work year-round,” Trotter said. “From working with our dedicated sponsors to getting the arena set up, it takes a lot of man-hours every year to set everything up so the fans can experience our rodeo.

“Roundup was established years ago as a community event, and it takes place during Dodge City Days. We get fans from all over the state and from all over the country who come to our rodeo ever year, and we want them to have a great experience year after year.”

From the ticket-takers at the front game to the person who sold the hamburgers at the concessions stand, virtually every ounce of labor is one of love by people who care about Roundup.

“If you buy a Pepsi or a beer, a volunteer has served you,” he said. “All the behind-the-scenes things that happen are done primarily by people who donate their time.

“When it comes to our rodeo, we have the top professional cowboys and cowgirls in the world who come to Dodge City. I credit the people of this community who make it happen.”

That includes the local businesses that support the event financially. In rodeo, cowboys and cowgirls compete in order to make a living. In addition to paying bills, dollars earned also count as championship points – the contestants in each event who earn the most money at season’s end are crowned world champions.

Roundup offers local incentives of more than $160,000. That, combined with contestants’ entry fees, makes up one of the largest purses in ProRodeo; through the years, it has remained one of the top 25 events in the country.

“We get support from more than 100 businesses, nearly all of which are local,” Gall said. “I think it says a lot about how those businesses understand the type of event our rodeo is to this community. We’re very blessed by the local support we get.”

postheadericon Funnyman returning to Guymon

Rodeo clown Cody Sosebee interacts with fans during a recent rodeo in Guymon, Okla. This month features a busy part of his schedule, moving from one large rodeo to another: Springdale, Ark.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Dodge City, Kan.; and Lovington, N.M. He returns to Lovington to work this year's Lea County Fair and Rodeo.

Rodeo clown Cody Sosebee interacts with fans during a recent rodeo in Guymon, Okla. He returns to the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo the first weekend in May. 

GUYMON, Okla. – There are things in this world that people want to see many times over.

The Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo is one of those for rodeo funnyman Cody Sosebee. He returns for this year’s festivities, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“What I love about Guymon is that it’s a cowboy’s rodeo,” said Sosebee, who will work the Texas County, Okla., rodeo for the third time in his career. “It may not have the flashy lights of Las Vegas, but it’s just as big of an event to work as any of the other top rodeos in the world. They get the best cowboys in rodeo, and you know they’re going to show up with their game faces on.

“It’s a real rodeo crowd, but they still appreciate good entertainment. They’ll cheer for me and support me like they do any 85-point bronc ride. I love it there.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Cody has been a great addition to our rodeo ever year he’s been here,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “The first time he came to Pioneer Days Rodeo, we knew we wanted him to come back.”

Not much has changed since Sosebee last performed in the Oklahoma Panhandle in 2012. Guymon’s rodeo continues to be one of the most prestigious events in ProRodeo and has continually featured nearly 1,000 contestants every May. The biggest change occurred in the last few months, when the Pioneer Days Rodeo committee was inducted in to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

Guymon is one of those top stops that has come Sosebee’s way; a regular nominee for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year, he has worked many top events, including Dodge City, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; Calgary, Alberta; and Cheyenne, Wyo.

“You get to work with an A team of personnel and an A team list of stock,” Sosebee said of the Guymon rodeo. “Anytime you get to work with people who excel in their field, it only makes me that much better.”

In addition to his clowning nomination, the former competitor also has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year two of the past three seasons. But there’s much more to Sosebee than meets the eye. Over his lifetime, he’s competed in nearly every rodeo event possible and was at the top of his game in bareback riding.

It’s part of the life growing up in a family that was heavily involved in rodeo. His father was a pickup man, so Sosebee has been part of the sport as long as he can remember.

“I got into clowning by accident by filling in for guys,” said Sosebee, who also owns a barbecue restaurant in his hometown of Charleston, Ark., just 25 miles east of Fort Smith, Ark. “I didn’t know where I was going to go with my rodeo career when I quit riding barebacks, and it turned into a good living. I get to see the world.”

A born competitor, the clown has made the adjustments he needed to get the true fix after a lifetime of being part of the contest.

“I’ve always been a competitor in anything I did, from football to basketball to when I was in freestyle bullfighting,” he said. “I miss putting my hand in the riggin’ and nodding my head to be 80 points to win the rodeo, but I’m a realist. I’m 43 years old. While most of the guys I rodeoed with have slowed down and have found jobs, I get to be in the arena and get to make a living in rodeo doing something I love.”

Sosebee also plays to his strengths. Bigger than many in the game, he showcases a true athleticism that is rarely seen among men of his stature. It’s comedy at the purest level.

“Having the ability to laugh at myself is probably my biggest strength,” he said. “I don’t take anything too serious. When I’m watching a comedian, the funniest thing I see is when they’re honestly open and having a good time. I want the fans to see that I’m a real person and I’m having fun, and they can have fun with me.”

That’s why Sosebee has excelled as one of the premier rodeo clowns in the game. That’s why the volunteer committee is bringing him to town. It’s another key reason Pioneer Days has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

 

postheadericon FMX team to jump into Dodge City

The members of Wisconsin Freestyle MotoCross will be part of the action during this year's Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena. (PHOTO COURTESY WIFMX)

The members of Wisconsin Freestyle MotoCross will be part of the action during this year’s Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena. (PHOTO COURTESY WIFMX)

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Cody Cavanaugh, Mike Keiper and Josh Mertens have different thoughts on horsepower than most who are involved with the 2015 Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

They are an integral part of Wisconsin Freestyle Motocross, which will be one of the featured pieces of entertainment during the five performances of the rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2. The three athletes will put on a spectacular display of freestyle motocross jumps inside Roundup Arena.

“We’re pretty excited about working that event,” said Cavanaugh, the founder of WIFMX, based in Neenah, Wis. “We always like going to new places. You get to meet the rodeo committee members and usually make good friends that way. It’s also nice for us to see a different culture.”

The WIFMX players all have extensive motocross experience. Now in their third year as a specialty act in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Cavanaugh and staff travel the rodeo trail putting on shows that expose some amazing feats on the backs of motorcycles.

“One of the things that make our show unique is that quite a few of us can ride motorcycles and jump four-wheelers,” he said. “I like the way we’re diverse in that way.”

It’s just another big piece of the entertainment pie that is Roundup Rodeo, which was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2012. It already is a key stop on the ProRodeo trail and will feature hundreds of the top contestants in the game. By combining with WIFMX, the volunteer rodeo committee that produces the annual event is just increasing the value for fans.

“We take a lot of pride in having the very best in rodeo,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the committee. “We have world champions in every performance of our rodeo, and we wanted to bring something else to the table for our great fans to enjoy.

“A lot of people come back to our rodeo year after year, and we always want to give them something special to enjoy. I believe having Cody Cavanaugh and his group here will really help make this year’s rodeo even better.”

Though his primary focus is on riding motorcycles, Cavanaugh grew up in a rodeo family. His parents were raised in South Dakota, and his father grew up on a farm and was part of rodeo as a roper and barrelman.

“When my parents moved to Wisconsin, we had horses on the farm right away, and we still have a horse-drawn carriage business we still run,” he said. “We have a hobby farm with petting-zoo animals. That’s how I had room enough to ride motorcycles around Wisconsin.”

He was outfitted with a three-wheeler at age 3, then moved on to his first dirt bike at 7. He started building little jumps with friends, then the jumps kept getting bigger. He loved the idea of FMX because of what he had seen on television and found it to be a great outlet.

Of course, being outside and active was a big part of how he was raised.

“As a kid, I roped quite a bit, and I come from a horse background,” Cavanaugh said. “In fact, our jumps are set up in a horse pasture.”

The WIFMX team now has a customized ramping system it takes to rodeos all across the country, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, to Park Rapids, Minn., to Dodge City. It takes just a few minutes of set-up time, and the excitement in the arena takes off. That’s where Cavanaugh, Keiper and Mertens show off the elaborate tricks they’ve perfected over the years.

“There is a small crashing curve that comes with learning new tricks,” Cavanaugh said. “If you’re going to push yourself, it can sometimes not end well. With a lot of practice, our confidence grew.

“I tell people all the time that we’ve been allowed to do these cool jobs of just riding motorcycles. Find something you like to do and do it all the time.”

It works for the WIFMX team, and for fans that make their way to Roundup Arena.

postheadericon County fair celebrates 80 years

LOVINGTON, N.M. – Eight decades ago, Jake McClure was the dominant calf roper in rodeo; the Lea County, N.M., cowboy had revolutionized his event and had earned titles at the most prestigious events in the game.

His hometown event, the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, was established in his heyday. This August, the exposition will celebrate its 80th year. Inside the expansive fairgrounds on the eastern edge of Lovington sits Jake McClure Arena, home to one of the most recognized events in ProRodeo.

Lea County Fair Logo“No matter the amount of time that goes by, it’s the one thing that brings the county together every year,” said Corey Helton, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “It’s gotten bigger over the years, especially lately with the concerts and the rodeo. It’s the one event that the residents of Lea County know is going to happen every year.”

This year’s celebration is set for Friday, July 31-Saturday, Aug. 8, and will feature a touch of the historic, a splash of the new generation and a bushel of fun. The best part is the admission is just $8 for adults and $6 for children.

“A lot of people in this part of the country take pride in the county fair,” Helton said. “Every year it gets better and better, and I think people expect it to be what it is.”

From the great concerts – Ricochet, Cody Johnson, Crowder, Dan & Shay, Scotty McCreery and Gregg Allman – to the various livestock shows to Lea County Xtreme Bulls and the rodeo to the food and carnival, there are numerous reasons why this county fair is such a must-see event.

“I think we all know the fair actually started with the kids and showcasing the kids’ hard work throughout the year with the livestock shows,” Helton said. “We can never lose sight of that. It’s still about that. It’s about the sale. That’s the big thing about the fair. Yeah, we’ve had the concerts and the rodeo, but without the kids showing animals, do you really have a fair?

“The goal of every fair should be the kids.”

The Lovington event is more than just a county fair. The Lea County Fair and Rodeo has been recognized as one of the top expositions in the region, and there’s good reason. There is a concert six nights of the nine-day event, and the rodeo will feature the very best in the game, cowboys and cowgirls who will have traveled hundreds of miles to compete in southeastern New Mexico and some of the top animals in the business from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.

“I think one of the things that’s still part of the 80-year tradition is the rodeo,” Helton said. “We continue to draw the top 10 cowboys in each event.”

It’s something Jake McClure surely would brag about if he were still on the rodeo trail. It’s something many people from Lea County talk about each summer as they anticipate the goings-on in Lovington.

“We’re going to be working with the Western Heritage Museum and recognize some of the older people in the community that have contributed so much over the years,” Helton said. “We all wanted to provide something for the people that have contributed something to the heritage of Lea County.”

It should be quite the celebration.

postheadericon Sosebee ready to rock Roundup

Rodeo clown Cody Sosebee performs during a recent rodeo. Sosebee has been recognized as one of the top barrelmen and entertainers in rodeo for several years, and he will bring his to the 2015 Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Rodeo clown Cody Sosebee performs during a recent rodeo. Sosebee has been recognized as one of the top barrelmen and entertainers in rodeo for several years, and he will bring his to the 2015 Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

DODGE CITY, Kan. – There are only a handful of accomplishments funnyman Cody Sosebee hasn’t achieved in a strong rodeo career.

He’s been nominated five times as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year, including each of the past four seasons. He’s worked many of the top events in the sport’s history and has been recognized as a premier entertainer. But he’s never worked the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

That changes in 2015. For the first time in the event’s ProRodeo-Hall-of-Fame history, the Arkansas man will be a featured player in the six nights of world-class rodeo action, with the Xtreme Bulls planned for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, and five incredible rodeo performances set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena.

“I’m excited about going there as I’ve ever been about working any rodeo,” Sosebee said. “I’ve passed that rodeo arena every year when I leave my home for Cheyenne (Wyo.), and I’ve always wanted to be there.

“It’s one of the most historic Western towns and one of the most recognized rodeos in the country. It’s a tradition rich place, and I’ve been a lot of great places in my career. This is like a feather in your hat when you work an event like Dodge City.”

It’s an honor to work the elite events in the sport. Not only has he worked Cheyenne, Sosebee also has been a primary entertainer at the River City Rodeo in Omaha, Neb., and the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.

“When a committee of the stature of Dodge City asks you to come work their rodeo, it’s like Michael Jordan asking if you want to play a game of basketball,” he said. “You get to work with an A team of personnel and an A team list of stock. Anytime you get to work with people who excel in their field, it only makes me that much better.”

In addition to his clowning nomination, the former competitor also has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year two of the past three seasons. But there’s much more to Sosebee than meets the eye. Over his lifetime, he’s competed in nearly every rodeo event possible and was at the top of his game in bareback riding.

It’s part of the life growing up in a family that was heavily involved in rodeo. His father was a pickup man, so Sosebee has been part of the sport as long as he can remember.

“I got into clowning by accident by filling in for guys,” said Sosebee, who also owns a barbecue restaurant in his hometown of Charleston, Ark., just 25 miles east of Fort Smith, Ark. “I didn’t know where I was going to go with my rodeo career when I quit riding barebacks, and it turned into a good living. I get to see the world.

“I live in a community with one four-way stop, and I get to go to Dodge City, Kansas, and a lot of other great places where as soon as you pull into town, you are considered a rock star for a week.”

A born competitor, the clown has made the adjustments he needed to get the true fix after a lifetime of being part of the contest.

“I’ve always been a competitor in anything I did, from football to basketball to when I was in freestyle bullfighting,” he said. “I miss putting my hand in the riggin’ and nodding my head to be 80 points to win the rodeo, but I’m a realist. I’m 43 years old. While most of the guys I rodeoed with have slowed down and have found jobs, I get to be in the arena and get to make a living in rodeo doing something I love.”

Sosebee also plays to his strengths. Bigger than many in the game, he showcases a true athleticism that is rarely seen among men of his stature. It’s comedy at the purest level.

“Having the ability to laugh at myself is probably my biggest strength,” he said. “I don’t take anything too serious. When I’m watching a comedian, the funniest thing I see is when they’re honestly open and having a good time. I want the fans to see that I’m a real person and I’m having fun, and they can have fun with me.”

That’s why Sosebee has excelled as one of the premier rodeo clowns in the game. That’s why the volunteer committee is bringing him to town. It’s another key reason Dodge City Roundup Rodeo is always at the top of the game.

postheadericon New Mexicans ready for Cowboy Christmas

Ram pickups pulling elaborate horse trailers and toting world-class ropers and steer wrestlers have left Pecos, Texas, and Reno, Nev., and are making their ways to locales all across North America.

They’re meeting other rigs and customized vans toting bull riders, saddle bronc riders and bareback riders.

Taos Muncy

Taos Muncy

This is Cowboy Christmas, the busiest time of the ProRodeo season. It features numerous rodeos located all across the United States and Canada, and each stop offers something for every contestant who makes a living in the sport.

The major stops include Prescott, Ariz.; Window Rock, Ariz.; Cody, Wyo.; Greeley, Colo.; Springdale, Ark.; Molalla, Ore.; St. Paul, Ore.; Livingston, Mont.; and Red Lodge, Mont., just to name a few. The commonality between them is the enticement of large paydays and many miles in between.

“The Fourth is really tough because you’re going on little to no sleep and spend most of your time getting from one place to another,” said Taos Muncy, a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider and one of the key members of the Tate Branch Auto Group team of ProRodeo cowboys. “A lot of things can happen, good and bad. I’ve had terrible Fourths where I’ve won nothing. That’s real humbling.”

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper

As a roughstock cowboy, Muncy and his traveling posse don’t have to haul their own horses. The timed-event cowboys do. No matter the traveling arrangements, the logistics of getting from one place to another can be nightmarish.

It’s something all cowboys must face, including others on the “Riding for the Brand” team: tie-down roping brothers Clif and Clint Cooper and their legendary father, Roy Cooper; steer roper Marty Jones; and team roping twins Jake and Jim Ross Cooper. All have ties to southeastern New Mexico, just like the Tate Branch Auto Group, which has dealerships in Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs.

Jim Ross Cooper

Jim Ross Cooper

Though New Mexico is always home, the Tate Branch Auto Group Cowboys will spend the next few weeks on the rodeo trail. They all rodeo for a living and need every dollar they can win, but there’s much more to it. Dollars equal championship points, and the contestant in each event with the most earnings at the conclusion of the season wins the world champion’s gold buckle.

Oftentimes, timed-event hands will have more than one rig on the road during the hectic portion of the season to make sure they capitalize on as many opportunities as possible. That also showcases their talent in riding more than one horse at a time. But having more than one customized vehicle on the road is also helpful to Muncy and his traveling crew.

Clint Cooper

Clint Cooper

Right now, for example, he is in the van owned by traveling partner Tyrel Larsen, while Muncy’s is in northern Colorado. They’ll fly around to several places before returning to Greeley for the Stampede, then moving on to other rodeos.

“For me, the heavy part of the summer run is from the end of June to the end of July,” he said. “I’ll go straight through the next few weeks then on to Calgary (Alberta). I’ll be going every single day from now until the 13th of July, getting on one to two broncs a day.”

That’s just how hectic things can get over a short period of time. When it works out, it’s phenomenal. Muncy has won more than $30,000 over a few days centered around the Fourth of July holiday.

Clif Cooper

Clif Cooper

The Corona, N.M., cowboy has been among the top five in the world standings for much of the 2015 season. A recent dry spell has given him even more incentive to make things happen over the next few days.

“Everything was going really good until last weekend,” said Muncy, who won the college title in 2007, then followed that with world titles in 2007 and 2011. “I went to four rodeos and just had a lot of bad luck. It was just one of those weekends, but those things can turn around. When you’re on fire, you better keep entering and go with the flow. It can turn around quick. You’ve got to be able to handle the highs and the lows.”

That’s the way the rodeo rolls. It’s why the Tate Branch Auto Group cowboys lean on the support they get from the dealerships and the rest of the team involved.

“You just have to stay positive and go with the flow,” Muncy said. “Sometimes you have to show up late and get on, but when you get there, you try hard and give it your best. That’s all you can ask.”

That’s how more gold buckles are crafted.

postheadericon Gray-Dirty Jacket score 92 points

PECOS, Texas – Neither Ryan Gray nor Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket is a stranger to being part bareback riding scores in the 90s.

They worked together Friday night for a 92-point ride to take the bareback riding lead at the West of the Pecos Rodeo inside Buck Jackson Arena. It is the highest marked bareback ride so far in 2015 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and more than three months remain in the regular season.

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Gray, an eight-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Cheney, Wash., is the No. 11 bareback rider in this week’s world standings. With one performance remaining in Pecos, he should collect a big check out of the World’s Oldest Rodeo.

Gray is one of just four cowboys who are part of the world record for highest-marked ride in rodeo, posting a 94 on Grass Dancer, another great Pete Carr bucking horse, in Eagle, Colo., in 2009. Gray also won the fifth round of the 2011 NFR with a 90-point ride on Pete Carr’s MGM Deuces Night, which won the 2012 PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year.

Dirty Jacket is the reigning world champion bareback horse and has been voted as one of the top three horses in the game each of the past three seasons. This marks the third time this year that cowboys have exceeded the 90-point barrier on the 11-year-old bay gelding – Jessy Davis was 93 points to win the San Angelo, Texas, Cinch Shootout in February (a non-PRCA event), while Winn Ratliff posted a 90 just two weeks ago to share the title in Weatherford, Texas.

Over his career, Dirty Jacket has been part of 90-point-plus rides numerous times. In 2014, he matched moves with Richmond Champion in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Steven Dent in Stephenville, Texas, for 91 points; those were the highest marked rides of the season. Two seasons ago, young gun Taylor Price won the West of the Pecos buckle with a 91-point ride on Dirty Jacket.

postheadericon Carr team adds to Window Rock rodeo

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo is one of the greatest spectacles in the sport.

It’s part of Cowboy Christmas, an annual showcase of lucrative rodeos set around the July 4 holiday. More importantly, it features the greatest athletes in the game, from world champion cowboys and cowgirls to some of the most impressive bucking animals from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.

WindowRock2015The rodeo is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 2-Saturday, July 4, at Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena (because Window Rock is on the Navajo Nation, the kickoff each night will be during Mountain Standard Time; it is not the same as Arizona, which does not recognize Daylight Savings time).

“I think the thing that makes our rodeo so great is our stock contractor,” said Wanda Nelson, spokeswoman for the Navajo Nation Fair, which produces the annual rodeo. “The last few years, that has been a big thing for us. The contractor and the contestants: we’ve actually had the NFR here in the (Navajo) Nation.”

In addition to numerous world champions that are part of the field, the Window Rock rodeo also will feature world champion bucking animals like Dirty Jacket, the reigning PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year, and two other world champion equine athletes in Big Tex and Real Deal. That’s the type of power Pete Carr Pro Rodeo has in the Navajo Nation.

The key is producing an event that is talked about around the Navajo Nation, which has been the case since the Carr team has been part of the Fourth of July event. This year’s event will include announcer Andy Stewart, a nominee for PRCA Announcer of the Year who is in his fifth year in Window Rock, and funnyman Troy Lerwill, one of the most decorated entertainers in ProRodeo.

Another keen aspect to the three-day rodeo will be the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo bucking stock, another attractive feature for rodeo’s greatest stars. Each of the past two seasons, 27 Carr animals have been selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“Overall, he’s just got the top-rated stock,” Nelson said of Carr. “His personality is a great fit for us, and so is his love for rodeo. He’s been really good to us and has worked really well with us.”

The work is putting on the best rodeo possible for the greatest fans in the game. That’s what the Navajo Nation has come to expect with the annual Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo.

postheadericon Kirby is a true circuit champion

DUNCAN, Okla. – Jesse James Kirby has been in this position before.

The veteran cowboy holds the lead in the Prairie Circuit’s saddle bronc riding standings, edging another veteran, Wade Sundell of Coleman, Okla., by about $1,400 with just three months remaining in the 2015 season.

Jesse James Kirby

Jesse James Kirby

“I’ve been in the circuit situation before where I had a good lead and had some guys catch me,” said Kirby, 33, of Dodge City, Kan. “But it’s not up to me. My main thing is taking it one rodeo at a time and letting things fall where they fall.”

It may be cliché, but that philosophy is working quite well for Kirby. He’s earned five event titles already this season, including three in the circuit, made up of contestants and events primarily in the Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma region.

He’d like to carry that momentum over to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15-Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. After all, he is the reigning circuit finals champion, winning the average title in 2014 by having the best three-round cumulative score among the finalists.

“I’ve been very consistent lately,” said Kirby, who has earned championships at circuit stops in Bennington, Kan.; Strong City, Kan.; and the May rodeo in Duncan. “I’m just trying to keep it simple, not worrying about anything and just having fun. When a guy gets to thinking about too much, that’s when he fights his head and struggles.

“I’m just keeping it as easy as possible, lifting on my rein, keeping my chin tucked and having a good spur out.”

Wade Sundell

Wade Sundell

No matter how much success one has, the top athletes in the game realize basic fundamentals make the difference between riding well and struggling. There also is the thought to continue doing what’s working.

“I needed to get a little ahead so when I get out of the circuit a little bit, I have a bit of a cushion,” he said, referring to the ProRodeo schedule that will see him traveling across the country and outside the region most of the next three months. “I would like to hit Woodward (Okla.) for sure and maybe Pretty Prairie (Kan.) before I head out West. Those are good circuit rodeos, and Woodward adds a lot of money, so that’s always a big part of it.”

Cowboys and cowgirls not only compete to pay their bills, but each dollar counts as championship points. So far this season, Kirby has pocketed more than $9,100, with $6,481 coming from his earnings inside the Prairie Circuit. He is a three-time year-end circuit champion and a two-time winner of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“I’m going to keep riding the way I have been and hit the circuit rodeos I can,” he said. “During the week of Dodge City, a guy can hit (Kansas stops in) Dodge City, Hill City, Abilene and Phillipsburg, and there are some others that are co-approved with the circuit. That’s a good week to be a circuit cowboy, because they’re all close together.

“If a guy can draw pretty good that week and have a real good week, it can make a big difference in what it takes to get to the circuit finals.”

That’s vital. Only the top 12 contestants in each event earn the right to compete in Duncan the third weekend in October. The world of rodeo features a tiered system; not only do the contestants battle for a spot in the season-ending finale, there are a number of cowboys and cowgirls who also are battling for a spot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand championship.

As a full-time cowboy, that’s one of Kirby’s goals for 2015.

“I’ve been on a roll, so I’m going to go out West and fight with the wolves a little bit,” Kirby said, referring to testing his skills against regular NFR qualifiers and world champions. “Praise the Lord, I’ve been drawing really good and riding really good. I’m just going to try to take advantage of it and make a little statement that I’m still here.

“I’m going to have fun and do this while I can, because I’m not going to have much more time doing it.”

As a past circuit champion, Kirby wants to continue to push for another regional title. Qualifying for the circuit finals would be important, and so would performing well once he gets to Duncan, but there also is a bigger prize dangling on the line for the Kansas cowboy.

“The circuit’s always been important to me, because it’s close to home and I like the circuit so much,” he said. “But I also haven’t won the saddle yet at the Ram National Circuit Finals.”

The year-end and finals champion in each event from all 12 ProRodeo circuits qualify for the RNCFR, which takes place in Kissimmee, Fla. Each national champion not only wins a trophy saddle but also a trophy buckle, thousands of dollars and a $20,000 voucher toward a new Ram pickup.

“I’d like to have that, especially now that Florida has stepped up and has more added money. If we can still compete and win a lot of money, then we’re going to do that.

“There’s a lot of money in our circuit, too. There are a lot of good rodeos in this circuit and a lot of good people. I want to keep supporting them as much as I can and help the younger guys who are just getting started.”

Kirby has been doing that for his entire ProRodeo career. There’s no reason to change now.