CLAREMORE, Okla. – Trevor Brazile is a record-breaking world champion cowboy.
For folks in northeast Oklahoma, he’s also one aspect of the record 564 entries at this year’s Will Rogers Stampede, which will feature 26 world championships and dozens of qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer roping.
“We’ve always had some of the greatest cowboys in the world come to Claremore,” said David Petty, the rodeo’s chairman. “I think we represent the best rodeo has to offer, and the fans will get to see that.”
Brazile owns 14 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championships and has earned nearly $4 million over a 15-year career. Last year alone, he won the team roping-heading, tie-down roping and all-around world championships, the second time in four years he collected the coveted Triple Crown, collecting a record $507,921. He’s one of two cowboys in the history of the PRCA to have qualified for the national finals in all four roping disciplines – heading, heeling, calf roping and steer roping.
The Will Rogers Stampede will have three performances set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27-Sunday, May 29. Claremore will be the weekend home to some of the greatest cowboys and cowgirls going down the rodeo trail today.
“I think that’s definitely the most entries we’ve ever had,” said Bob Morton, the rodeo’s co-chairman who has been part of the Will Rogers Roundup Club for more than 30 years. “It shows that this rodeo has enough respect from the contestants that they want to come here. We want to put on the best show in the area to try to differentiate from the many amateur rodeos right around here.
“The fans that come here will know right away they’re seeing the best rodeo around.”
While the performances take place over Memorial Day weekend, the competition actually begins Thursday, May 26, with non-performance competition known as slack – there will be more entrants into the timed events of the competition than will fit in one of the three performances, so the remainder of the contestants will make their runs throughout the day. The evening competition will feature tie-down roping and steer roping.
“It provides opportunities for more contestants,” Petty said. “Each contestant pays an entry fee in order to compete, and that fee goes into the prize money along with our committee purse. The more contestants in each event, the bigger the purse will be.”
And with a good number of world champions in the field, there is plenty of drama in the competition. Brazile, for example, owns a record eight all-around championships. In 2010, he surpassed roughstock legend Ty Murray, who earned his seventh all-around gold buckle in 1998.
Brazile is joined by several other contestants who wear those coveted and elusive buckles, like two-time and reigning steer wrestling champion Dean Gorsuch, two-time barrel racing champion Brittany Pozzi and two-time reigning steer roping titlist Rocky Patterson.
“We take a lot of pride in the rodeo we have, and I think the cowboys realize that,” Morton said. “Of course, I think we have a lot of other good things with our rodeo. We’ve always believed in having pretty good contract acts, and we’ve got a great one this year.”
Jerry Wayne Olson has excelled as a specialty act since the day he broke out in ProRodeo in 1974. He and his horse, Justin Boots, perform a liberty horse act, and he also has a miniature horse act and does trick roping.
“We had Jerry Wayne before when he was doing his buffalo act,” Morton said. “In fact, his dad brought his buffalo here. They’re both good showmen and good people.”
The overall atmosphere of the annual rodeo is about fun, something that is needed. Whether it’s Gizmo McCracken clowning around or the fantastic athletic action inside Will Rogers Stampede Arena, there’s plenty for every fan of every age to enjoy.
“I don’t think people can find better entertainment,” Petty said. “The way the gas prices are, you don’t have to go very far to find a lot of fun over Memorial Day weekend. It’s right here in Claremore.”