WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – T.J. Holgate wears many hats, and almost all of them are cowboy. Holgate is a Window Rock District Court judge, a cowboy and a proud Navajo.
He ties it all together quite nicely as the volunteer chairman of the Navajo Nation Fourth of July PRCA Rodeo, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 4, and 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5, and Friday, July 6, at Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena (because Window Rock is on the Navajo Nation, the kickoff each night will be during Mountain Standard Time, which is not the same as Arizona, which does not recognize Daylight Savings time).
“The Navajo Nation as a whole … they love rodeo,” Holgate said. “It’s probably the No. 1 sport out here. It’s a big thing. Most of the natives are agricultural, raising livestock. They’re farmers, outdoors people. They love good animals. They love to watch good competition. It’s just a component for what rodeo means to them.”
That’s why the Fourth of July rodeo is important to the Navajo Nation and why it reached out to Pete Carr to serve as the stock contractor for this year’s rodeo.
“I knew Pete had good animals and would be a good choice,” Holgate said, noting that the committee, run by the Navajo Nation, made the final decision. “We invited Pete to come out in February. The people I work with got a chance to talk to him and see what he was about.”
The culmination of that meeting and the hiring process means Carr, his crew and his top-notch animal athletes will be part of the Window Rock celebration.
“That rodeo has a very rich history, and I’m glad our crew can be part of it,” said Carr, owner of Dallas-based Carr Pro Rodeo. “I know there are some great rodeo fans there, and I hope we can put on the kind of show that they want to see over and over again.”
The four-day, three-performance celebration is a way to celebrate the Navajo Nation, kicking things off on Tuesday, July 3, with a Credence Clearwater Revival concert. The opening performance of the rodeo on the Fourth of July will be Patriot Night, including post-rodeo fireworks. Ram night is Thursday, and the final performance will be Tough Enough to Wear Pink night, to raise money and awareness for fight against cancer.
“I have a good friend, J.C. Trujillo, who runs the Prescott rodeo, and we’ve come up with a bonus program,” Holgate said. “Our committee puts up $750, and Prescott puts up $750, and we’re going to give that $1,500 to the one contestant who makes the most money between the two rodeos.”
That’s just more incentive to draw the top contestants to both great rodeos, but there are so many aspects of the Navajo Nation rodeo that are attractive to the top names in the game.
“The natives are humble, humanitarian, and they treat cowboys with respect out here,” Holgate said. “We used to have an autograph session when Ty Murray was going, and you’d think he parted the water for the natives. That’s the awesome aspect of it. They really respect and idolize cowboys.
“In terms of Pete coming here this year, I think it’s going to be a whole new look and a production that everybody is going to want to see. He has a horse of the year and a lot of other things that everybody around here is excited about.”
Real Deal was named the 2005 Bareback Horse of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, but he’s just one of many great animals that will be part of the mix in Window Rock. River Boat Annie was the Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse in 2007, and there are dozens of other great bucking animals that have been selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo over the years.
“I sure wish Pete was contracting some when I was rodeoing,” Holgate said, revealing again that his cowboy hat fits very well.