CLAREMORE, Okla. – The humidity was just one reason the volunteers who produce the Will Rogers Stampede were sweating so much the final weekend in May 2010.
They were all working pretty hard. In late November, the members of the Will Rogers Roundup Club had their hard work recognized by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, which named the Claremore rodeo grounds as having the best footing in the Prairie Circuit, made up of rodeos in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region.
“When you look at the hours these people put in to make that ground so good, you know how much work it took,” said David Petty, the rodeo’s chairman. “It’s a pretty special feeling that the WPRA selected our rodeo, because it was a statement made by the competitors, the ladies that ran at our rodeo and all the other rodeos in the circuit.”
The Will Rogers Stampede is one of 12 rodeos selected as the best in their region. It also qualifies the rodeo as a finalist for the national honor, which will be announced next week in Las Vegas.
“The ground is a big deal in every timed event in rodeo, but good ground is essential in barrel racing,” said Tana Poppino, a three-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “Without quality ground, it can really make a difference in the competition.”
Poppino knows. Not only has she been part of ProRodeo’s grand finale, she’s also the Prairie Circuit director for the WPRA, and she lives just down the road in Big Cabin.
“We rely on our horses a lot, and we want to take care of them as well as possible,” she said. “That’s an important part of having quality ground.
“But we also compete for a living, and when we get to the arena, we want a chance to win. At Claremore, the ground was in such good shape, that anybody had a chance to win that rodeo no matter when they run or where they were in the order.”
From the right amount of moisture on the arena dirt to the tireless efforts of the volunteers to make it good for each run, the committee of volunteers realizes the value of their intense focus on the small details.
“This is a great honor for us,” Petty said. “It’s nice to be mentioned alongside all those other great rodeos. It would be nice to be recognized as the best in the country, but we don’t do all that work for the awards; we do all that work to make for the best competition for the contestants and the best show for the fans. That’s what rodeo’s about.”