By Kristen M. White
Who knew some plastic could win awards?
Turns out, black plastic tarps did precisely that for the Longford, Kan., Rodeo committee. The rodeo tied with Nacogdoches (Texas) Pro Rodeo to receive the WPRA Small Rodeo of the Year award. Committee members are thrilled with the distinction and surprised to be honored for what they considered no big deal.
Held Labor Day weekend for the past 61 years, the Longford Rodeo is a tradition in the small town and surrounding area. When the weather forecast this year called for rain all week long prior to the rodeo, some of the folks involved with the rodeo decided they should do what they could to protect the rodeo grounds.
They went to their local farm supply store and spent about $1,000 buying black plastic that is normally used for covering hay bales, explained rodeo secretary Michelle Ware. The tarps were spread over the arena ground, protecting it from about three inches of rain that week.
Jeanne Anderson-2016 Longford (Kan.) Rodeo Barrel Winner
Photo by Kent Kerschner
“Obviously for the stock and for the contestants, and for everybody working, it would have just been a mess for any of us,” Ware said. “It was just something that was going to save everybody some trouble. We know how dangerous it can be to run on something slick, and this was something we could do to prevent it.”
The committee and volunteers thought they were doing a basic service, but it turns out the gesture meant so much more to the contestants, who voted for Longford for the Rodeo of the Year award.
“It didn’t seem like a big decision,” Ware said. “We were really surprised.”
Though the town of Longford has only about 50 people in it, the rural community surrounding it comes out in droves for the annual rodeo. What looks like a couple of pastures during the week morphs into a rocking rodeo for the weekend, drawing in crowds of 1,700 people who are eager to cheer on the hundred or so contestants that compete each year.
“A lot of kids who grew up going to the rodeo, now they come home that weekend with their own kids,” Ware said. “And for those of us who live around here, it’s a chance to see friends we grew up with and relatives that moved away. It’s a community event, almost a reunion.”
The official rodeo committee is about eight people that plan in the offseason, but there are dozens upon dozens of volunteers that come out in the weeks prior to the rodeo to help with the finishing touches and to work in concessions, parking lots and more. Winning Small Rodeo of the Year is an award that goes to everyone involved, Ware said.
“You just don’t think you’re going to get recognized (for covering the arena),” Ware said. “Nobody did it for that – we just thought it made sense.”
As things often go in small towns, word about the award spread through the town before Ware even received the official phone call. She heard about it on a local radio station, and she said she’s not sure how the news first started to spread. The rodeo received the Justin Best Footing award in the past, so adding Small Rodeo of the Year honor is great.
“We’re very pleased and very appreciated that what we do is noticed,” she said.
The awards will be given at the Star Celebration in Las Vegas on Dec. 1. Ware said she wishes she could be there in person to accept the award (a trip to the NFR is on her bucket list), but the honor will most likely be accepted on the rodeo’s behalf by its stock contractor, New Frontier Rodeo.