PECOS, Texas – When it comes to rodeo, folks in Far West Texas know their stuff.
A good portion of residents have done it in some regard, whether in the arenas across the landscape or across the dusty pastures of the Rolling Plains. They’ve definitely been around it, and they’re the biggest supporters of the sport that features great cowboys and cowgirls and the outstanding animal athletes.
“We have a lot of old rodeo fans that don’t cut me a bit of slack,” said Joe Keese, president of the committee that organizes the annual West of the Pecos Rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 22-Saturday, June 25, at Buck Jackson Arena. “Two years ago, after the 2009 rodeo, I had a lot of people tell me that it was one of the best rodeos they’d ever watched, start to finish. Last year, I had even more people tell me that.
“That’s a true testament to the great livestock Pete Carr brings to our rodeo every year and the kind of production Carr Pro Rodeo puts on. Last year, I had two people, two legitimate critics, who told me they didn’t think we could top the year before, but we did.”
That’s saying something about Pecos, home of the World’s First Rodeo, which will celebrate its 129th year this June.
“We’re tickled to have rodeos that have that much history in the sport,” said Carr, the owner of the Dallas-based livestock firm.
The West of the Pecos Rodeo is still making history, whether it’s having Boyd Polhamus – the voice of ProRodeo – announcing the action or the best soundman in the business, Benje Bendele, adding a delicate touch to the proceedings or having the event produced by the staff of Carr Pro Rodeo, one of the fastest-growing stock contractors in the game.
“One of the things Pete has helped us with tremendously is because he’s got such a good livestock lineup, he’s got the quality of animals that brings the top cowboys,” Keese said. “The good news for the fans that follow the sport of rodeo is that no matter what night they come to our rodeo, they’ll get to see their favorite guys go.”
Keese isn’t just hearing good things from fans; many of the biggest names in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association are talking about why they want to be in Pecos, too.
“When I’m on the road, I know I’m going to Pete Carr’s rodeos,” said Chris Harris, a six-time bareback riding qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from Itasca, Texas. “It’s easy to ride good when you’re on something that bucks. When you enter a Pete Carr rodeo, you’re going to get on something that bucks, and you’re going to have a shot at winning every time.”
The Pecos rodeo provides many outstanding features, from a large arena that will test the greatest timed-event cowboys in the game to a 12 foot-by-17 foot video board to help fans enjoy the experience on site. Tim Lepard with Wild Thang Productions will be the barrelman/funnyman and provide fantastic acts, like having capuchin monkeys riding border collies that round up sheep.
“For the cowboys, we have a really long timed-event box and a 20-plus-foot score line,” Keese said. “When you have a huge arena and a long box like that, as I’ve been told by many guys, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. If you’re not well-mounted and not good at what you do, you’re not going to win in Pecos.
“We’re going to have great timed-event cattle, too. Pete spends the money to bring in a good string of steers and a good string of calves.”
As the rodeo evolves, the organizers realize it must reach into its past – that’s just one of the benefits of having the oldest rodeo in the United States.
“An awful lot of the cowboys filled their permits in Pecos,” Keese said, referring to the development stage of ProRodeo whereby permit-holders must earn a minimum amount of money through competition to be eligible to become members of the PRCA. “A lot come back here every year because they came with their granddad, then their dad, and they want to keep that going.
“With this arena and our set up, it’s a test of the cowboy’s skills, and it’s tradition. People want that Pecos buckle.”