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STEPHENVILLE, Texas – It’s a record-breaking year for Stephenville’s rodeo.
The Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo – set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, at Lone Star Arena – has more than 660 contestants that have entered this year’s event.
“This is an increase of what we’ve had in recent years and is a big improvement over what we had last year,” said Chad Decker, chairman of the rodeo committee that organizes the annual rodeo. “We’ve grown so much over the last five years that it’s somewhat unbelievable.”
The cowboys and cowgirls believe it, and that’s why they have decided to make it the premier rodeo in the final week of the 2017 regular season. With many of those contestants still on the verge of qualifying for ProRodeo’s finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Stephenville has become a go-to place for them to earn their stripes.
“We add $6,500 per event except for steer roping, which adds $7,500,” Decker said, referring to the committee purse that is mixed with contestants’ entry fees to make up the overall pot. “It’s a game-changer. It can either make someone really happy or really sad depending on the outcome. It’s been that way for the last four years.”
It’s an attractive piece to the rodeo’s puzzle, but the cornerstone comes with the bucking animals and production from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock producer that has been nominated five straight times for PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year.
“I think this is Pete’s 12th year producing our rodeo,” Decker said. “He always brings the best stock and top-notch production. When you come to Stephenville on Sept. 22nd, 23rd and 24th, you’ll see the best stock there is in rodeo. It really is a tune-up for the NFR; a lot of people think it’s a mini-NFR.
“The thing about Stephenville is that we have so many contestants that are here. It turns into a homecoming for sure. You’ve got world champions that have bought a ticket to come watch this rodeo. The majority of the fans here know rodeo and how it works. It’s a different setting.”
But it’s a wild ride. Ninety-point rides are common in the roughstock events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding – and it’s going to take fast times to walk away with the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo title. When the numbers are crunched at the end of the season, Stephenville is recognized as having one of the best events in ProRodeo. It has been nominated for Medium Rodeo of the Year each of the past two seasons.
“We treat these guys well,” Decker said of the contestants. “We want them at our rodeo, and our people go above and beyond to do everything for them, from having great hospitality to having Pete Carr as our producer. I think that’s why they like our rodeo.
“We’ve enhanced our production with light and sound from Benje Bendele, who is the top guy in the business. We have our video board from Real Screen Video, and that just adds to our event. Our sponsors are more involved and are thrilled with what has been done.”
It’s obviously working.