EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the June issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
Tana Poppino had never been to Cheyenne, Okla., before this spring.
Of course, not many people have been to the community of about 750 in far-reaching western Oklahoma. But the populous hosts one of the most unique events in ProRodeo, the Old Settlers Reunion Rodeo, a celebration that takes place just once every five years.
“The Old Settlers Reunion is just one of many celebrations of Oklahoma history. Rodeo is a natural fit for the celebration that brings visitors to town,” said Poppino, who is part of ProRodeo Team Oklahoma. “It’s always an honor to win an event that means so much to a community, and it kind of makes you feel like you are part of Oklahoma history.”
Poppino rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 17.26 seconds to win the barrel racing title and $925, but the bigger prize came in being part of such legendary event.
“The people there are really nice and very enthusiastic about the event,” she said. “They are a great group of people.”
While it was Poppino’s first experience, ProRodeo Hall of Fame announcer Hadley Barrett has been part of the festivities for 40 years. He loves the flavor of the rodeo and the enthusiasm of the rodeo committee.
“I think it’s done the way a lot of us thought rodeo should be,” said Barrett, the 2011 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association announcer of the year. “It’s a good, old country rodeo. It’s not a lot of frills, and it’s a pretty pure rodeo.
“We had the Kimzie kids and the Navarre kids, and we had one hell of a good set of barrel racers there.”
Dusta and Trey Kimzie, the children of barrelman Ted Kimzie, joined Melissa Navarre and her daughter, Shyla, in a trick-riding exhibition. That seemed to be a memorable part of the experience for everyone involved.
“Shyla’s just 5 years old, and she showed her little pony, then we had a full-fledged trick riding with Melissa, Dusta and Trey, who is just 13,” Barrett said.
It wasn’t just the youngsters who caught everyone’s attention. Navarre is from a strong rodeo family; her mom is Dollie (Beutler) Riddle, who serves as a rodeo secretary and timer for the stock contracting firm owned by her family, Beutler & Son Rodeo. Riddle, too, was a trick rider who also worked the Cheyenne rodeo, allowing for three generations of the same family to have a hand at the Old Settlers Reunion Rodeo.
“Hadley said Melissa started her trick-riding career in Cheyenne,” Poppino said. “It was really neat getting to see that.”
The reunion provides a great opportunity for many fans to come out to a great celebration. It’s also a great chance for the contestants to learn a little more about the western Oklahoma berg.
“There were signs on all the buildings telling you what they were back when,” Poppino said, explaining that the signs indicated what businesses were in them when the settlers established Cheyenne. “It’s not a very big town, but it was full, and there was a good crowd. It’s kind of like a throw-back deal because it happens every five years. It’s refreshing.”
Perryman Star was refreshing, too.
“He actually looks better than he did when I bought him,” she said of Amigo, a 17-year-old bay gelding. “He’s healthy, and he’s feeling good. Maybe taking the winter off is what he needed.”
If hibernation is working for a great gelding that has helped Poppino to three Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications, what does a five-year wait do for a rodeo town?
“There’s really a fresh feeling, and I think it’s because it is every five years,” Barrett said. “They built a state-of-the-art announcer’s booth and have a new concessions stand. You have a feeling that their not taking it lightly.”
Neither is Barrett, who began his ProRodeo announcing career in 1965. In his lifetime, he’s won PRCA announcer of the year four times, has called the action at the NFR five times, has announced the steer roping finals three times and was the television face of rodeo for more than a decade.
The WPRA honor is one he cherishes as much as any other he’s received.
“It means so much to me to win the award from the WPRA,” Barrett said. “I love the event, and I’ve supported it forever.”