STEPHENVILLE, Texas – This community’s motto is more than a phrase; it’s a lifestyle
The Cowboy Capital of the World is proof of the tremendous athletic talent that resides in Erath County. Over the last few years, the community’s rodeo has made changes to be a true showcase of that – first changing the date to the end of September to help draw more fans, then increasing the purse to attract the biggest names in the game.
“With college kids in town, our population doubles,” said Chad Decker, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and Saturday, Sept. 27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, at Lone Star Arena. “In June, the college population wasn’t here. We’re trying to do the best job for the community.
“We’re also trying to get the cowboys and cowgirls. Now that it’s one of the last rodeos of the year, we feel like we’re going to be the rodeo they’ll all want to get to.”
ProRodeo’s regular season concludes on that Sunday. When the checks are tabulated the next day, everyone will know who finished among the top 15 money-earners in each event, signifying those coveted qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. That’s what makes the Stephenville rodeo so vital for the top contestants in the land.
“We’re giving them a chance to make it,” Decker said.
Decker and other volunteers stepped up their fund-raising efforts. This year, the committee will put $47,500 into the pot, which will be added to the contestants’ entry fees to make up the overall purse. That means solid payouts for the top finishers.
Another key feature for the top cowboys in the game is in the quality of livestock. The Cowboy Capital of the World Rodeo has the benefit of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo as its livestock producer. Last year alone, 27 Carr animals that were selected to buck at the NFR.
“Anytime Pete Carr has a rodeo, you know the stock’s going to be great,” said rookie Sage Kimzey, the No. 1 bull rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “His bull string is one of the best in the business.”
AMERICAN ROYAL UTILIZES LESSONS TO TEACH YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT AGRARIAN VALUES
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The lives of countless children have been positively affected over the year through the American Royal.
From facility tours to historical lessons, Kristie Larson and her crew work to spread the word about the charitable organization’s legacy, which is celebrating its 115th year. It’s a process she holds dearly with each project, with each young life.
“Our mission is to educate young people about agriculture and where their food comes from,” said Larson, the American Royal’s director of education. “As kids are becoming further removed from the farm and from production agriculture, I think it’s important that we show them that we are blessed to live in the United States where we have a safe, healthy food source.”
That’s the purpose of the American Royal’s education philosophy, and it’s something the staff works toward all year. It’s especially poignant during the association’s fall festival, which takes place from early September through mid-November.
“We focus on agrarian values, too,” Larson said. “That’s where those competitive events come in. Not only does the American Royal offer all those, but all of the things we do are still relevant today. Although we have a long, proud history, we are still doing things that are relevant that kids and adults learn from.”
The Royal conducts museum tours all year and will have outreach programs through YMCA groups and charter schools. Throughout the school year, there are opportunities for educators to take advantage of American Royal material.
“We invite students to come through, and we try to focus our approach on what they are learning about at that time,” Larson said. “We are establishing partnerships with PREP-KC, which is a high school program focusing on urban youth.”
The biggest educational opportunity during the fall festival will be school tours during the final week of September to coincide with the Invitational Youth Rodeo.
“The kids love coming not only because of the educational opportunity with it, but they get to see kids their age in the rodeo,” Larson said. “You get learning and the fun rodeo atmosphere. The teachers like it. It is a very unique programming to what else is offered out there for school trips and field trips.”
The process not only serves as great training but also plays a vital role of passing along the core values that serve as the foundation for the American Royal. Each year, the association raises more than $1 million to youth and education.
“Whenever I take people through the museum tour and we walk through the horse stalls or the livestock shows or something else here at the complex, they tell me that they didn’t know we had all these programs,” Larson said. “The more people that learn about that, the more people we have that will understand the true mission of the American Royal.”
ALVA, Okla. – The Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team has spent weeks preparing for the upcoming season.
The practice is about to be put to the test with the first event of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Central Plains Region, which takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Cherokee, Okla., just a stone’s throw from the Alva campus.
“One of the rodeo programs dropped its program this year, and no other program wanted to pick it up,” said Stockton Graves, Northwestern’s rodeo coach. “We are doing this as a favor to the region so that we can have 10 region rodeos.
“We are still going to have our own rodeo later this fall in Alva. We knew it was going to be tough on our great sponsors to have two of them in Alva in the fall, so we opted to put one in Cherokee. I think it’s very doable.”
The Central Plains Region features four fall rodeos and six in the spring. That’s why Graves and his team agreed to have the Cherokee Rodeo hosted by NWOSU.
“I think we could’ve very easily put on a rodeo in Alva in both the fall and spring, but since the region wanted to keep the number of rodeos the same in each semester, we’re basically going to have two rodeos around here in the fall,” Graves said. “I got as close as I could to where both Alva and Cherokee could both benefit. It’s a great facility. This is really for the kids so they could have 10 rodeos instead of nine, and we’ve had a good response from both Alva and Cherokee.”
Northwestern’s traditional rodeo will take place Oct. 30-Nov. 1 in Alva. Because the rodeo team hosts both events, that means a lot of work by the by team members to get everything ready for the other programs that will be part of the competition.
“We’re excited to get things started, and I’m sure the kids are ready,” Graves said. “I’m really excited about the upcoming season. We got a really good recruiting class and a lot of talented kids coming in. I think combined with our returning cowboys and cowgirls, we’re going to have a good mix.”
The list of returners includes three qualifiers from the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo: steer wrestler Steven Culling of Fort St. John, British Columbia, and goat-tiers Karly Kile of Topeka, Kan., and Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz. Culling finished third at the national championship, while Barnes placed third in the CNFR’s final go-round to end her season on a high note.
“From what I’ve seen so far, I think we have a very solid team, and I have expectations for us to be in the hunt for the regional titles at the end of the season,” Graves said.
STILLWATER, Okla. – The focus of any college program is to better prepare students for life off campus.
With that thought in mind, organizers of the Colt Starting Challenge USA have teamed together with a few select colleges and universities to bring its competition to their communities in order to showcase true horse trainers with this inventive competition.
“Our competitions are also a way to showcase a way of starting colts and young horses, and we wanted to make it an opportunity for college equine programs to experience it and be part of it,” said Russell Beatty, founder of Colt Starting Challenge USA. “We want the colleges to benefit from this experience, too.”
There will be four challenges throughout the fall semester, with the next taking place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Oklahoma State University’s Animal Science Arena on the west edge of campus.
“This is a new deal for us,” said Dr. Steven Cooper, associate professor in animal science and the head of the equine teaching program in Stillwater, Okla. “What we’re excited about is it’s going to be a little different. He’s reserving a couple of spots for college students to compete.”
The Colt Starting Challenge features several horse trainers working with colts or young horses that have had limited handling. None of the animals will have been saddled nor bridled, then the trainers will utilize natural horsemanship methods to work their animals over the course of the two-day, judged competition.
At the conclusion of their few hours of working with the horses, the trainers will then ride the horses through a series of obstacles to show how these animals work in a short amount of time with focused training that centers around the animals’ instincts and personalities.
“One reason we’re involved is because we have an equine program, and our bread and butter is that we start colts under a saddle,” said Jake Walker, who, with Jake Lawson, are agriculture equine instructors and rodeo coaches at Connors State College in Warner, Okla. “It’s always an interest of us being a small junior college that anytime we can get equine folks on our campus, we try to focus on that.”
The Connors State challenge will take place Oct. 3-4 at the Fred Williams Indoor Arena on the school’s campus. The final collegiate event will be Oct. 24-25 at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
“We also have an annual festival here in Warner, and we’ve been asked to be part of that for years,” Walker said. “We’re actually going to host the Colt Starting Challenge with the Warner Cowchip Day. That will be going on downtown, then we’ll host the competition.
“We want to get the people to campus to show off our programs, and we’re using it as a community effort with the cowchip day.”
Each school has its own reasons for hosting the events, but it comes down to showcasing their own programs. That works well with the basic premise of the Colt Starting Challenge USA.
“This is a fund-raiser for the OSU Horseman’s Association,” Cooper said. “That’s a group of undergraduate students that are active both on and off campus working with certain aspects of the community.”
While some schools are using the format as a fund-raiser, Connors State will focus raising awareness.
“We just want to get our name and our programs out there,” Walker said. “We are letting people know we’re here and that students can earn an education here while being involved in equine.”
Colleges to benefit from challenge
HEMPSTEAD, Texas – In its few years in the PRCA, the Waller County Fair and Rodeo has become quite a showcase for the very best the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has to offer.
That will be amped up even more starting with this year’s exposition, which will feature two new rodeo events: The Eliminator, a six-man tie-down roping battle, and the 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head competition between two of the top bareback riders in the game.
“We’re always looking to make improvements to our fair and rodeo,” said Rocky Politi, a long-time member of the Waller County Fair Board’s rodeo committee. “I think these two events are going to be a great fit for our fair and rodeo, because they say so much about Waller County and our area as a whole.
“We wanted to bring something different and entertaining to our die-hard rodeo fans.”
The Eliminator will be part of a night of calf roping that begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead. It will be headlined by a half-dozen of rodeo’s brightest tie-down ropers: reigning world champion Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La.; Tyson Durfey, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Weatherford, Texas; Houston Hutto, a four-time NFR qualifier from Tomball, Texas; Timber Moore, a two-time NFR qualifier from Aubrey, Texas; Marty Yates, a 2014 NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas; and Reno Gonzalez, a two-time AQHA champion from Magnolia, Texas.
The event starts with all six competing in the first round. The cowboy with the slowest time in each round will be eliminated, with only two ropers competing in the final go-round for the championship.
“I really liked the idea behind it, and I thought it would be a unique event to be involved in,” said Durfey, a three-time Canadian champion who won the tie-down roping title at RFD-TV’s The American this past spring. “In the beginning, you don’t want to make any mistakes so you can make it back. At the end, you’re going to have to go for it. By the time we get down to the final few rounds, you’re going to see some pretty fast runs.
“It’s probably been three years since I’ve been in a situation like that. It’s definitely something the fans haven’t really seen. I think it’s a great format and should be a lot of fun to be part of.”
The 8 Second Bareback Challenge is also dubbed The Mentor vs. The Protégé, with veteran Clint Cannon matching his skills against third-year pro Richmond Champion. Cannon is one of the organizers of the Southeast Texas Bareback Riding School, which takes place every fall in Hempstead; Champion first began riding bareback horses at the school.
The challenge will take place during the second performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3.
“It’s going to be fun, because it’s my hometown rodeo and I get to go against Richie,” said Cannon, a four-time NFR qualifier from Waller. “I helped Richie get started, and he’s an awesome bareback rider. It’s going to be head-to-head, experience and youth.”
Champion, who won $1.1 million earlier this year during a non-PRCA sanctioned rodeo called RFD-TV’s The American, is from The Woodlands, Texas, so this also is an event that’s close to home. He has been ranked among the top 10 in the PRCA world standings much of this season and is a virtual lock to earn his first trip to the NFR.
“Richie has been a really good bareback rider for a long time,” Cannon said. “He’s always had an ability to do good. To see him progress to where he is right now going to his first NFR and winning a million bucks is awesome.
“He’s a very humble kid and rides really good.”
That’s plenty of incentive for the veteran Cannon, who has multiple RodeoHouston titles to go with his NFR qualifications. He’s battled a few injuries this season, but he’s ready for his opportunity to shine in Waller County.
“I know youth is going to take over one day, but I’m hoping to hold that off a little while longer,” he said. “This is going to be a lot of fun.”
That’s just what fans want to see.
I saw the full list for of PRCA end-of-the-year-award nominees yesterday, and it’s filled with some of the most talented, hard-working people I’ve worked with.
It is my honor at every rodeo at which I’m hired to share time with these people. They work hard for their wares week in and week out, and these nominations are the annual pots of gold at the end of a long, long rainbow. Why is it so special?
Because voting by the PRCA membership decides the winner in each category.
Here’s the rub: Because the association has refused for so many years to utilize the technology available to put the voting online, PRCA members must, first, be home in order to get their mailed ballot. That’s pretty tough at the end of the rodeo season for those that are on the road for so many weeks a year and are chugging along with hopes of qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo or realizing some annual goals. Hopefully that will change very soon.
Despite the challenges, I urge my friends that are members to vote and mail your ballots back in by the deadline. The only way to sway the annual awards ceremony away from being an annual celebration of the status quo is to have a high voter turnout. Vote your conscience or vote for your friends, but vote.
If you haven’t seen the list, it looks like this:
Pete Carr Pro Rodeo
Stace Smith Pro Rodeo
Beutler & Son Rodeo
Sunni Deb Backstrom
Bullfighter of the Year
Dress Act of the Year
Jerry Wayne Olson
One Arm Bandit – Amanda and John Payne
Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls – Jennifer Nicholson, Brandi Phillips
Comedy Act of the Year
Clown of the Year
Small Rodeo of the Year
Cave Creek, Ariz.
Medium Rodeo of the Year
Estes Park, Colo.
Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year
Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year
Fort Worth, Texas
Rapid City, S.D.
San Antonio, Texas
REIGNING CHAMPS GAIN CONFIDENCE WITH RUNS IN KANSAS CITY
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A year ago, bull rider Tim Bingham was down and almost out. The year-long struggles had worn him out, and the end of the 2013 season couldn’t come soon enough.
That changed in just eight seconds on the final weekend of September, when Bingham rode Wild Card Rodeo’s bull 822 for 88 points to win the American Royal PRCA Rodeo. He finished his campaign on a high note, and that has capitalized him toward top of the bull riding mountain in 2014.
“That one ride just gave me a ton of confidence,” said Bingham, 23, of Honeyville, Utah. “I was burned out. I was just going to finish out the year, take a break and reignite my fire, but going there and winning it changed my attitude fast. I had a bull that hadn’t been ridden that often, and I made one of the better rides I’ve ever made in my career.”
Those are the type of rides that will be featured at this year’s American Royal PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Hale Arena. Many contestants will make their way to Kansas City on the final weekend of the 2014 regular season looking to capitalize on their solid campaign or to gain needed momentum.
“After I left Kansas City, I took a couple weeks off, then went to Billings (Mont.) and San Francisco to start my new season,” Bingham said, noting that he placed second in Billings and won San Francisco. “I went to some amateur events in Utah after that, and I won all three that I went to.
“Between those six rides, I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to make the NFR this year.”
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the sport’s year-end championship, which takes place every December in Las Vegas. Only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify for the finale, which is where world champions will be crowned. Bingham is fifth on the money list with nearly $78,000 this season.
“I got that motivation and that confidence in Kansas City, so I just decided to fire off and get the next season started good,” he said. “It hasn’t slowed down since.”
While Bingham used his momentum as an accelerant for this season, saddle broncs rider Tyler Corrington utilized his American Royal victory as a way to get back to basics before the NFR.
“It was really important for me to do well,” said Corrington, who finished the 2013 season ninth in the world standings.
Now the Hastings, Minn., cowboy rolls into the final few weeks of the season seventh in the standings. Corrington and Bingham are just two of the five reigning American Royal champions who are a virtual lock to be at the NFR in two and a half months, joining team bareback rider Winn Ratliff, heeler Patrick Smith and header Trevor Brazile, the most decorated champion in ProRodeo history.
They gained that needed confidence inside the American Royal complex, and they’re carrying it over to championship runs this season.
“This NFR has been a long time coming,” Bingham said. “Making it is just a dream come true.”
WORLD’S BEST STEER ROPERS TO COMPETE FOR GOLD BUCKLE AT KANSAS STAR ARENA
MULVANE, Kan. – For the first time in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association history, a world championship will be crowned in Kansas.
The Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping will crown the first world champion of 2014 during its two-day run Nov. 7-8 at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane.
The best steer ropers in ProRodeo have been competing all season for one of 15 spots in the championship. They will continue to battle for the coveted gold buckle during the 10-round event inside the state-of-the-art arena just south of Wichita.
“I think change is healthy,” said Trevor Brazile, the four-time and reigning world champion steer roper who owns a PRCA-record 19 gold buckles. “Why not see what a venue change can do for the roping. I think it’s pretty exciting for steer roping.”
Since it first began in 1959, the NFSR has taken place in New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas.
“It’s going to be nice to be in the state where I grew up,” said Mike Chase, who was raised in Beloit, Kan., and is heading to the finals for the fifth time in his 18-year career. “My friends will be closer to come watch, plus it’s very important that we have this event continue to grow.”
Kansas has a long rodeo history, and recently has been well represented in steer roping. Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan., is a three-time world champion who has been in a tight battle for the coveted gold buckle each of the past five seasons. He is just inside the top 20 in the world standings and will need to move into the top 15 to qualify for the 20th time.
Brazile is solid in his quest to return for the championship and looks to build on his record 11 all-around gold buckles. He is a virtual lock to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in team roping and tie-down roping.
“I would love another world title in steer roping,” he said. “The challenge for me every year is to try to get to enough of them. It seems I get stuck at going to 25 to 30 steer ropings when everybody else is going to 60. It’s hard to plan on winning a world championship like that, but when the opportunity presents itself, you try to capitalize on it.”
The opportunity will come in early November at the Kansas Star Arena.
DUNCAN, Okla. – It’s been more than 25 years since Lane Frost was killed during the final round of the 1989 Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo.
He was a world champion bull rider and a fan-favorite who held a glimmering personality and a loving nature despite the rough-and-tumble sport in which he competed. He also was a man of God, which is what brings the greatest joy to his parents, Clyde and Elsie Frost. It’s a message they share with countless others as they tell tales of their inspiring son.
It’s a message Elsie Frost will share during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo banquet, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Simmons Center in Duncan. A portion of the proceeds will go toward a local youth shelter.
“We’re very excited to have Elsie speak at our banquet,” said Joe Henderson, chairman of the committee that produces the regional finals rodeo, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan. “She has such a powerful message regarding faith and perseverance, and it’s something we all look forward to any time we get the chance.”
The life of Lane Frost was played out in the 1992 movie “8 Seconds,” though Hollywood took a few liberties with the final script. Still, the movie continues to be a driving force for many young people who continue to idolize the bull rider, even two and a half decades after his death.
Since that fateful day, lane Frost’s friends and fellow bull riders continued his legacy through the creation of stand-alone bull riding organizations Professional Bull Riders and Championship Bull Riding. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, for which Lane Frost was the 1987 world champion bull rider, also has created the Xtreme Bulls Tour, a series of stand-alone bull riding events that count toward PRCA world standings.
As Lane Frost’s legacy continues to grow, his memory serves as a great reminder of what faith and a champion’s heart mean in the world today. Elsie Frost will make sure of that.
TEXARKANA, Ark. – The accolades are nice, but the reason Pete Carr produces rodeos is found deep in his love for the sport.
Over the years, Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo has been recognized as one of the top livestock firms in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In 2013 and ’14, Carr has been nominated for the prestigious honor of Stock Contractor of the Year; meanwhile, 27 Carr animals were selected to perform at ProRodeo’s grand finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“We’ve certainly been blessed with some great success in the last few years,” Carr said. “We have a great group of hard-working people who care about the sport and everything that goes into it.”
The full package comes to fruition at the Four States Fair Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17-Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Four States Fair Entertainment Center in Texarkana, Ark.
“I know you couldn’t ask for any better animals at one rodeo,” said Ronny Sparks, a key member of the rodeo committee. “That’s what we want. One thing about our rodeo is that with this time of year, we’ve got a lot of guys coming that are on the bubble to make the National Finals (Rodeo). They only take the top 15 in each event, so they’re all busting their butts to make as much money as they can this time of year.”
For the 2014 season, the Carr firm will produce more than 30 rodeos and will have livestock at a number of other events across the country. It takes a great team and outstanding animal athletes to make those events successful, and Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo has both.
“We work really hard all year to produce the rodeos and feature the stock that will draw the top cowboys,” Carr said.
At the NFR this past December, Carr was represented by 12 bareback horses, five saddle broncs and 10 bulls – that’s proof of the all-around talent that spends most of its time on lush grassland at Carr’s ranch near Athens, Texas.
“He’s not even going to have a B pen before long,” said saddle bronc rider Heith DeMoss, a five-time NFR qualifier from Heflin, La. “He’s going to have an A plus and an A pen. He’s got an eye for horses, and he’s surrounded himself with people who know what they’re talking about. You want to go to Pete’s rodeos, because you’re going to get on something.”
That’s why the contestants make it a point to compete at Carr rodeos. Cowboys know their best chance to win is to be matched with a great partner.
“Pete has put together a good set of bulls,” said J.W. Harris, the four-time and reigning bull riding world champion from Mullin, Texas. “I think he wants to show that he’s got great bulls to go with his great horses.
“You know when you go to his rodeos you’re going to get on a good one. I like going to Pete’s rodeos because he’s got good people who work for him, but having all those good animals sure makes it easier for us to go to. Pete Carr’s come a long ways in just a few years.”