There’s no doubt that rodeo is a community all its own. Traveling from one event to the next and spending much of the year on the road fosters a fellowship amongst competitors, stock contractors and personnel that is unique to the sport.
And for most of those involved, more time is spent on the road than at home. Because of that, the sense of community at home is nothing like the sense of community on the road. However, many of those home communities embrace the rodeo lifestyle and are extremely proud of their own contestants.
Just a few days after gold buckles were awarded at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR), one of those communities came together to celebrate their own. The Stephenville (Texas) Chamber of Commerce and Cowboy Capital Pro Rodeo Association hosted the third annual NFR Welcome Home Celebration at the Cowboy Church of Erath County.
Luke Brown and Jake Long were two of the contestants on hand along with Stephenville born-and-raised tie-down roper Marty Yates. Rodeo announcer Randy Schmutz and chamber president, July Danly, served as emcees and interviewed the cowboys. They also recognized Jackie Crawford and J.J. Hampton who have each won 17 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world titles.
“It still amazes me every time I make it to the NFR,” Luke told the fans at the event. “I couldn’t do what I do without the support of family, friends and sponsors. That includes the Stephenville community.”
Luke and Jake roped together for all of the 2016 season. They both moved to Stephenville, Luke from North Carolina and Jake from Kansas. Marty Yates talked about growing up in the area and learning from his aunt J.J. Hampton.
“I love Vegas, love being a spectator and love being there for Marty,” J.J. said. “We make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun. But it sure is good to get back home.”
All of these contestants received a gift basket filled with goodies from chamber members. They also got a pep talk from Mayor Kenny Weldon.
“In Stephenville, we understand western heritage because we live it,” he said. “I’m here to congratulate you for being the best of the best. You showed grit, tenacity and the ability to stick with it. We’re proud of you and proud of Stephenville.”
Specialty acts Bobby Kerr, Madison, McDonald and Tomas Garcilazo were part of the entertainment at this year’s NFR and all headquarter out of Erath County. Stephenville’s rodeo was selected among the top five mid-size rodeos in the PRCA and won the WPRA & Justin Boots Best Footing Award for the seventh time. The Cowboy Capital of the World had lots to celebrate.
In Canada, The Return Party, presented by Ranchman’s and Everything Cowboy was held at Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall in Alberta. Featured guests included newly crowned saddle bronc riding world champion Zeke Thurston and team roping heading champ Levi Simpson. NFR contestants Jake Vold (bareback) and Clay Elliott (saddle bronc) were also there.
A special appearance was made by Canadian Musician Corb Lund who played in the Gold Buckle Zone at the MGM Grand during the NFR. This party involved more than coffee and cookies and lasted into the morning hours.
Friends of Tyson Durfey arranged a limo to pick he and his family up at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport and take him home where new signs claiming him as the world champion tie-down roper adorned his Weatherford, Texas, residence. Then they had a surprise party to celebrate his success.
After enjoying a little time off, spending the Holidays with friends and families, rodeo contestants are moving into 2017 with new goals. For the recently crowned world champions, it was also a time to sit back and absorb the reality of what they accomplished in Las Vegas. While they are looking forward to the next year spent with the rodeo community, they’ve given fans at home many reasons to be proud of their accomplishments.