GUYMON, Okla. – Each May the largest community in the Oklahoma Panhandle hosts nearly 1,000 of the best athletes ProRodeo has to offer, from world champion cowboys and cowgirls to the outstanding bucking beasts.
The key ingredient in the magnitude and scope of such an event is the group of community volunteers that tackle every task, from raising funds to cleaning the facilities and handling all matters in between. It takes thousands of man hours to get everything ready, much less the work it takes during the seven straight days of rodeo competition in Texas County, Okla.
To be that involved means a real commitment, following a calling. That’s the case for so many people who not only invest their time and talents throughout the year, but also use their vacation time to work their tails off the week of the rodeo.
“I do this because I love rodeo,” said Becky Robinson of Guymon, who tackles the scheduling, appearances and contests involving the rodeo queens. “I love all the people involved in it. Rodeo people are just good people.”
That’s Robinson’s driving force, but it’s also a passion for her to help produce the biggest event in the community, with performances set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“I think the reason we have a great rodeo is because we cater to the contestants,” said Robinson, who has been part of the rodeo committee for 10 years and is involved with her sister, Gina Horner. “We have good stock, and we always try to get the top stock. I think the reason so many cowboys come to Guymon is because of the stock and the format.
“But I think, too, they come here because of the hospitality. That’s important.”
The Pioneer Days Rodeo committee does what it can to reach out to contestants, but the hospitality reaches into the community.
“I think the opportunity to compete for money is going to be in the contestants’ thoughts as much as anything, but I believe the hospitality we provide is a big part of it, too,” said Horner, who joined the committee with Robinson in 2002. “I don’t believe it’s just the rodeo committee or just the rodeo, but everyone else, too. I think they need to put fuel in their trucks and buy food for their horses and themselves, and they get to interact with the people here.
“This feels like home to them. We’re rodeo people here. Our kids rodeo, just like their kids.”
The rodeo is just one piece of the large Pioneer Days celebration, which has roots to the Depression, when Guymon was in the middle of the “Dust Bowl.” But the rodeo is the cornerstone of the festivities that take place the first weekend of May each year. That means the volunteers put together their time and talents to help produce the event.
Last year alone, a record number of contestants and a record crowd saw the action inside. How does that happen?
“We have a lot of people who put in a lot of their time and energy all year long to put together the best rodeo we can,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the rodeo committee. “Most of the volunteers take off the week of the rodeo so they can help out and be part of it. It’s a lot of work, but I think every person that is involved believes in this rodeo that much. We’re awfully proud of it and the work we do.”
They should be. Over the years, Pioneer Days Rodeo has grown from a small event to one that attracts most of the top contestants in the sport. It has happened because people took their pride in the rodeo and built on it, sharing their passion with others.
“I’m on the rodeo committee for personal reasons, to spend quality time with my sister,” Horner said. “I love doing my part with the rodeo because of our childhood, of sitting in those wooden bleachers with my cousins and Becky. The rodeo is so important to my mom, and they’ve all pulled me into that with them.
“It’s a family thing for us, but the bonus is you get to help your community.”
And the community is the beneficiary. Recent figures reveal the rodeo offers a $2 million economic impact to Texas County. That means a lot to Robinson and Horner, who grew up in No Man’s Land and have been around the annual rodeo most of their lives.
“I help wherever else we need help at,” said Robinson, whose duties keep her so busy during the week of the rodeo that she hasn’t seen an entire performance in 10 years. “Guymon is such a good rodeo, and it seems like it always has been.”
Horner is proud to be part of the committee, but she’s more proud to see her sister excel. Like a lot of the volunteers who bust their humps to make things happen, Robinson has been a guiding light for the last decade.
“I think Becky is the real story, because she really puts so much into the rodeo,” Horner said. “This is a woman who has taken vacation for the rodeo when she won’t take a vacation for herself. This is important to her. That’s why I’m here.”