Just hours after landing in Las Vegas on Wednesday, I found myself at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa for the annual PRCA Awards Dinner, which recognizes the best of the best in ProRodeo. It’s the sport’s version of the Academy Awards, and there is plenty of hardware, cash and prizes that go home with the honorees every year.
It was a great event, and I enjoyed reuniting with friends from the rodeo world throughout the night. It was a who’s who of rodeo royalty, a room full of Hall of Famers, world champions and VIPs. The prime rib was delicious and dessert was dangerously tasty, but I stopped at one of the latter.
It was a special pleasure to see longtime PRCA photographer Eva Scofield win the PRCA Media Award for excellence in photography, especially since she had no idea it was going to happen. Scofield, a captain in the U.S. Navy who works for Homeland Security, thought she was at the South Point’s Grand Ballroom to take pictures of the dinner for the PRCA, so she was shocked to discover she was one of the night’s honorees.
Scofield is a great person and a friend, and she also happens to be a darn good photographer. When emcee Mike Mathis laid out Scofield’s credentials for the crowd and mentioned her role with the Navy, she received one of the night’s two standing ovations.
It was pretty awesome.
“I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to do the things I’ve been able to do,” Scofield said. “The highlight of my year is going to rodeos and being around the people. I was so surprised, and this was just so neat.
“This is the icing on the cake, and I still can’t believe it. I’m glad they didn’t ask me to say anything, because I don’t know what I would have said.”
The other big heartwarming occurrence, at least for me personally, was when Art and Linda Alsbaugh were recognized for decades of service to the sport with the PRCA Donita Barnes Contract Personnel Lifetime Achievement Award. Linda is one of the PRCA’s top secretaries, and Art has done pretty much everything under the sun in rodeo, and it was always nice to see them on the road at different times during my PRCA tenure.
Theirs was the final award of the night, and the likeable couple was all smiles after being selected for the prestigious award.
“It’s very special, because your peers and people you work with are the ones who selected you for it,” Linda Alsbaugh said. “I want to thank all of the stock contractors who have given us jobs through the years and put up with all the things we do. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It’s just a great life.”
Art was emotional on stage and gave much of the credit to Linda.
“I’ve been working in rodeo for over 50 years, and if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have made it,” he said.
There were a few surprises, for once, as Justin Rumford won his first Clown of the Year award, John Harrison claimed his first Comedy Act of the Year crown.
“It’s a great thrill,” said Rumford, whose sister, Haley Schneeberger, won her sixth consecutive Secretary of the Year award. “Cervi Championship Rodeo has done more for me than anybody, and they’ve helped me get so far. A couple of years ago, they told me that, if I worked hard, I could go to the top fast. I’m just so thankful for everything.”
Rumford told a funny story about one of his former employers, longtime PRCA stock contractor Benny Beutler.
“The first time I told anyone I wanted to be a rodeo clown, I told Benny I was thinking about clowning,” Rumford said. “He said, ‘If you want to be funny, go get in a Peterbilt and tell jokes on the CB.”
Keith Isley is no stranger to awards, but he got choked up while on stage to accept his fifth Coors Man in the Can award. At a loss for words for perhaps the first time in his life, Isley told a touching story about how he prays in the arena each night before he performs to give thanks for being able to have a job he loves and live a life he cherishes.
All in all, it was a great dinner, and the party hosted by Cheyenne Frontier Days – which won its ninth consecutive and 14th overall Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year award – that followed was a perfect way to end the night.