In working on the promotion for the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo, I heard a great story about how the annual showcase went from a little event to a large affair.
It’s been 19 years since Robert Etbauer won his second straight saddle bronc riding world championship in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Melyn Johnson was working at the Guymon Daily Herald, and she was assigned to do a story on Etbauer and his bronc riding brothers, all living in the neighboring town of Goodwell, home of one of the top rodeo programs in the country at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
During their gathering, Johnson asked Etbauer if he competed in the Pioneer Days Rodeo. Of course, he did; it was considered a hometown rodeo to those who lived in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Johnson pressed further, asking if the Pioneer Days event was a good rodeo, but Etbauer pressed back, saying it’s always good to compete at your hometown rodeo.
So Johnson asked another way: “If this weren’t your hometown rodeo, would you enter?”
Etbauer said no. There wasn’t much prize money, and the rodeo wasn’t set up to be cowboy-friendly. Those things made it tough on the organizers to draw many contestants, much less the top names in the game.
So Johnson said, “Why don’t you join the rodeo committee and make it better?”
Etbauer replied, “I will if you will.”
Within weeks, Robert Etbauer walked into businesses all over town and talked about the potential of the Pioneer Days Rodeo. He knocked on many doors and gained sponsors, and before long, the money raised for Pioneer Days Rodeo doubled.
Of course, it’s hard for people to say no to a man wearing a world champion’s gold buckle when he walks into their doors and talks about taking their community into the big time of ProRodeo.
Nearly two decades have passed since Etbauer made that commitment, and Pioneer Days Rodeo has grown into one of the top stops in the game. Most big-time players won’t miss it, and a big reason behind that is the commitment of many who have followed in Etbauer’s footsteps.